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Course Work: Western Washington University, Associate Degree: Pierce College
Hi, I’m Peyton. I discovered my passion for music as a child and was involved in numerous state choirs, prestigious orchestras, and symphonies. In high school I trained with Dr Jacobson, one of the best pianists in this part of the country, and under director Dr Cobbs of the Tacoma Youth Symphony. Also in high school, I decided I was going to become a film composer and began my journey in the science of writing music. Back then I didn’t have the skills to play my pieces the way I envisioned them sounding. I didn’t get it! I’d been taking lessons for years... but I couldn’t make my violin sound sad and melancholy or make the piano sound excited or happy. I realized I didn’t know how to APPLY all the techniques and skills I’d been practicing my whole life! What’s the use of learning something if you can’t do anything with it? So I set out on a journey to answer those questions. I devoted my life to learning music, moved to Bellingham to study music and composition at WWU, studying the science and art of playing music with emotion, and writing music that makes my audience feel what I want them to feel. In-between now and then, my music career took a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs, and ins and outs. It took time for me to figure out what role I wanted music to play in my life. All the while I’ve continued to teach private violin and piano lessons. For the past eight years, I’ve taught my students everything I’ve learned along the way.
My teaching experience dates back to high school, when I began giving private violin and piano lessons part time 8 years ago. Since that time I've continued to teach in the Puyallup area as well as in Bellingham and Mt Vernon. I’ve used many teaching models over the years on students of all ages from very diverse backgrounds. I did most of this through trial and error; learning that very young children do best with short structured and repetative lessons, while teenagers can benefit more from targeted lessons that switch focus every week, and what to do when a student struggles because of stress in their home. Learning in this fashion has taught me something really important to teaching private lessons. Adaptability. All of my students took lessons because they wanted to improve their ability to play music. I desperately wanted my students to enjoy learning their instruments and music they learned; knowing how easy it is to feel burnt out from too many scales and disappointed by slow progress. So I started asking my students, even the 6 year old, why they wanted to play an instrument and what they wanted to achieve. To my surprise, everyone, including that 6 year old, had a clear answer. All of them were different reasons and goals. I started writing notes at the end of each lesson on what a student had specifically struggled with, mastered, showed signs of improvement since the previous lesson, what exercises were draining on them, and what exercises they resonated with. I also took note of their mood and energy at the beginning of the lesson compared to the end. Lessons should not be something so draining that students dread coming back the following week. When I implemented the idea of teaching students techniques they need by creating individualized lesson plans, I immediately noticed a difference in my students! By studying core techniques unique to your needs, I’ll show you how to gain control over your instrument and play freely.
Although I have a classically trained background, I understand that some students don't respond well to the “traditional" Suzuki style learning. So, I like to assess a student before recommending books and or repertoire for them or their parents to purchase. I plan unique lesson plans for each student based on several determining factors including level of playing, age, learning curves, learning styles, what their goals for lessons are, and how much practice time they want to commit to per week (…which is usually a different number to students than it is to parents). In addition to lesson and scale books I like to heavily supplement technical material, finger strengthening exercises, repertoire appropriate to playing level, and theory. I also send students home with ‘listening homework’ from time to time, which includes listening to works from famous composers on youtube and then having a brief conversation about those pieces at the start of our next lesson. I believe understanding the scope of an instrument from more than just the “technical” aspect of it really enhances the learning experience and makes students value the techniques they are learning. However, beyond anything else, music should be enjoyed. So I try to find the best balance between having fun and improving you're ability to play.
It’s so easy to put too much pressure on students and cause the classic burn out that so many musicians have experienced at some point or another. So I’m very conscious of how my students are feeling and noticing the difference between the need for instructive support and the need for encouragement. I like to end every lesson with three questions. What did you learn today? What can you improve on this week? And What are you doing really well or have accomplished in this past week? In my experience, people learn best when they enjoy the music they're learning and become aware of their progress and accomplishments. I encourage my students to be patient when learning a difficult piece or gaining new skills. Like anythings progress takes a little time and hard work, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun along the way!
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