Music for the masses

I teach nearly 90 students a week these days – I can scarcely believe my teaching practices have grown so quickly.  I teach at York St John’s University in York – teaching music students is fun and very rewarding; I have my own private practice where I teach flute, piano and keyboard either at my house or in student’s homes and lastly I run York Keyboard School – you can find out more about that at either here or here.

York Keyboard School currently runs in two primary schools – St Wilfrid’s RC primary school in the centre of York and Robert Wilkinson School in Strensall, which is just outside York.  Lessons are run in groups of three students at a time and last half an hour each.  They are accessible to a wide range of students (for that, read cheaper than one to one lessons) and great fun.  What has surprised me is just how effective teaching in groups can be, in fact as a learning experience it is often far better than many  one to one lessons.

Reasons for this centre around the kind of relationships that develop between students as well as the relationship of individual students with me as their teacher.  Students are keen to play pieces they have learned – even if others in the group have already mastered the same pieces – the sense of mutual encouragement is very evident.  As is, of course, a healthy dose of competition – particularly between the more able students.

Lessons of this nature are ‘music for the masses’.  Not all will go on to study music or an instrument, not all practise as regularly as they should (not a new problem), some will give up after a few terms, some after a year.

But, I have been struck by how many adults have expressed their regret that they weren’t offered this kind of opportunity when they were at school.  Perhaps they recognise some of the benefits from this approach, will include:  (i) the ability to read musical notation (ii) the satisfaction of being able to play simple tunes with two hands (iii) a basic understanding of musical structures and how they affect the listener (iv) an appreciation of a wide range of repertoire, from classical to pop (v) ensemble skills of listening, keeping in time with other players and working as a team to create something successful (vi) increased self-confidence from the encouragement of their peers and the sense of achievement of making progress on their instrument.

The results is I am in the envious position of absolutely loving all the teaching I do – from the post-Grade 8 flute players, to the nearly Grade 8 pianists to the ‘music for the masses’ keyboard students.

I didn’t really fancy doing much teaching today – I woke up tired, a bit under the weather and Thursday is one of the busiest days of the week – but as I drove from Robert Wilkinson school this afternoon onto my private students I found myself smiling and reminding myself, “I love my job”.  Can’t be bad.

Tim Farnhill lives and breathes music and loves to engage and educate aspiring musician to grow. He provides professional music services from private tuition (flute lessons, piano lessons, keyboard lessons) through to conducting, composing and arranging for choirs and orchestras. To find out more about Tim and the breadth of services he can provide, please visit timfarnhill.com