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BA, Swarthmore College, Music (ethnomusicology focus)
2017 - Swarthmore College, Boyd Barnard Prize ("established by Boyd T. Barnard '17 is awarded by the music faculty each year to a student in the junior class in recognition of musical excellence and achievement")
Right around age six, I discovered that my hands were finally big enough to fret a guitar! I spent the next decade banging away on my own amongst the redwoods north of San Francisco. Bass, keys, mandolin, and vocals soon slipped into my repertoire, filling the space where a proper social life might otherwise have been. I swore to never go pro, lest it ruin the fun. For most of this time, I had assumed that “good music” died when The Beatles broke up, but in high school I flung my mind open to the stylistic diversity of the digital age. Solitary strumming gave way to manic collaboration. I entered Swarthmore College with delusions of becoming some sort of academic, but quickly switched to a music major, finding it impossible to concentrate on anything else. Swarthmore only taught western classical music, and I was immediately out of my depth, cramming the fundamentals of music reading two weeks before my first theory course. Fortunately, this educational twist was a blessing in disguise; traditions collided and sparks flew. The theoretical and technical rigor of formal education allowed me to harness my self-taught musicality while preserving the trademark kinks in his imagination and playing style.
After running around like headless chicken (studying, creating, teaching, performing, leading/organizing social music events, jamming with every living thing), I broke my childhood promise and decided to make music professionally. But I had begun teaching professionally far before my artistic aspirations caught up. I earned money throughout high school teaching private instrument lessons and as a full-time nanny/tutor. I adore teaching, and will continue honing the practice for the rest of my life.
//////////////// TLDR credentials: - 17 years playing experience - 7 years professional music teaching experience - BA in music from Swarthmore College (after being primarily self-taught) - Extreme stylistic diversity (with emphasis on originality) - 8 years pro childcare/tutoring - Multi-instrumentalist + songwriting/composing, - Tons of experience gigging and organizing jams/music events - 4 years pro music journalism (jazz in particular) - Have fun or bust!
I have taught instrument lessons for pay for 7 years, starting with guitar and ukulele lessons for kids and adults at age 16. I since expanded to piano, bass, mandolin, and music theory. These have always been side-gigs, with a couple weekly students at a time. I taught music theory to younger music students (informally but regularly) during my last two years at Swarthmore. I’ve also made a practice of mentoring my musical friends whenever possible in order to hone my communication skills and understanding of the instruments I play.
My first teaching experience, though not musical, was as a martial arts instructor at the Cuong Nhu dojo I attended from age 7 to 18. I was a teacher’s assistant by age 12 and would lead children’s and adult classes up to twice a week by age 14. This gave me experience teaching technique one-on-one as well as leading exercises for large groups ranging from 5 to 20 students. I work occasionally as a middle school math tutor. Since last November I have led what I call an “After-School Jam Session” for a small group of middle schoolers at the Science Leadership Academy Middle School in West Philly. We meet twice a week for 90 minutes and practice experimental techniques to foster musicality and jamming skills. I make up the curriculum as I go along, according to what the kids want and what I perceive to be their weak points. Sessions include breathing/relaxation/meditation, “John Cage jamming” (where we listen to each other very attentively and make sounds on random objects for long periods of time), groove practice, spoken-word poetry, songwriting, and more conventional rock band stuff. I encourage students (and myself) to live their everyday lives musically, listening aesthetically to the world around them and paying attention to their own “inner soundtracks” (imagination). After-School Jam Session serves as a laboratory for me to develop teaching practices that emphasize creativity, empathy, cooperation, and awareness of beauty.
My priority as a teacher is to foster creativity, joy, musicality, versatility, originality, and collaboration skills - to help you express and develop your own musical identity through your instrument. Guided by those principles, we will learn by playing the music that inspires you the most. Nothing is more important than loving what you do! We will balance technical rigor with a deep respect for strangeness. Though the lessons will be moulded entirely to your goals, abilities, and stylistic preferences, every curriculum will rely heavily on ear training and listening skills. In addition to teaching material directly, I prefer to cultivate the skill of teaching oneself. Instead of scripting the direction of the student’s growth I help them to follow their own path by accentuating the qualities that make them special and removing technical roadblocks. My own education straddles many schools (rock, jazz, folk/bluegrass, classical, hip-hop, dance, experimental, funk, etc.), formal and informal. But standardized music education leads to standardized music! We can scrap the heap of the them and take our favorite bits from each to make something new and personal.
There is one golden rule for all learning: do it and you'll get better at it. So the bottom line is you will improve according to how much you practice, and I cannot practice for you! I can however, convince you to LOVE playing your instrument (as I love playing mine!) This is one facet of my broader goal to instill a passion for music in general. I teach so that my enthusiasm, bolstered by critical listening skills, becomes contagious. I also believe firmly in positive reinforcement. It's often difficult to have perspective on your own growth patterns, and part of my job is to chronicle your progress and reveal more subtle elements of improvement. Growth is a beautiful feeling.
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