"As an instructor of music lessons at Starling, my aim is to motivate students to further explore and manifest their own creativity. This is achieved most efficiently when they feel genuinely inspired by salient and fun coursework that generates quantifiable improvement.
My personally-tailored approach helps students gain confidence in their own innate creative ability while building the sense of empowerment to hone their musical agility and knowledge-base. More so than ever, our current technological landscape allows independent thinkers to bring their music to professional-quality reality, if only they know how to harness tech tools and troubleshoot hurdles. I utilize cutting-edge information to help students find their footing in the digital musical landscape, while also harkening back to the historical context and one’s own relationship with music. The more holistic the curriculum, the more developed student tastes will become, and thus, the larger the pool of information to convert to personal inspiration.
Much of American culture has been involuntarily predisposed to view music as a competition, being force-fed an American Idol mentality. I come from the opposing viewpoint that there is no such thing as a “best voice.” It is true that good technique and steadfast discipline mixed with talent is a winning combination, but if there is anyway to quantify greatness, to me, it is what is most authentically unique. I instill in students the techniques needed to master instruments and the raw materials with which to build musical infrastructure; however, acquiring these skills just builds a sturdy blank canvas. It is the bolstering of confidence in one’s burgeoning ability that allow for the sufficient bravery to explore personal style. The unique colors in one’s creative voice are what bring to life a stimulating painting. Effective teaching is not just about providing the most effective information; it is about boosting confidence and reinforcing individualism so that each student’s work is that much more vividly and courageously his/her own.
Music can also be a collaborative process, and I find this an incredible opportunity to further develop community bonds. At the core of my teaching philosophy is the principle that we learn not for school, but for life. There are a vast array of parallels that can be drawn between music and life: for one, people who play together learn how integral it is to listen to each other. When playing music in a group context, the difference between beauty and cacophony lies in the purity of our listening. We also naturally utilize our strengths and support each others weaknesses- a great microcosm for how to best interact with each other in our everyday lives. Another parallel that can be drawn is between musical counterpoint and a verbal debate- we can study how two differing and opposing voices can highlight and complement each other. I often like to draw these parallels from music to life in my class so that the lesson does not end when the music stops, but can be utilized all the time. I anchor my pedagogy in chosen principles that are not fleeting flourishes in my coursework; were you to take my lessons, you would hear them repeated often.
Another principle I utilize often is music being learned as a language. I have garnered from my educational research that the most efficient way to learn music- and language- is through daily practice and improvisation. When we learn to speak, we are surrounded by masters who are not only fluent in our mother tongue, but can transform technical rules into poetry with ease. As we become more fluent, we are never chastised for our improvisational babble. Instead, with each breath, we are encouraged to keep speaking. This practice is reinforced as we are constantly surrounded with people we can improvise with, both at our level and more advanced. Within a few years of practice, we see exponential growth, and we can execute speaking in full sentences. Progressively, as we harness the knowledge of grammar and syntax, we gain a more powerful base to construct exactly what we want to say. I view music no differently. You may not need to know the key signature to recognize what sounds tonal or atonal in the key, but the more you know, the more empowered you are to execute your clear message. There is no shaming for mistakes- only encouragement, correct modeling, and positive reinforcement. I strongly believe that the best teachers are the ones who adopt the perspective of a perpetual learner- not just keeping current on cutting-edge advancements, but consistently revitalizing one’s dedication to the craft through practice and, most importantly, learning from the fresh viewpoint of each student.
My own experience as a performing musician, songwriter, and music therapist is perfectly proportionate to what I can reveal to my students as possible; therefore, I better keep heightening my own ceiling. Having four years of experience as a clinical music therapist, I am constantly assessing what one needs and devising flexible goals and objectives to personalize information for greatest success. Likewise, no course or private lesson is ever taught in exactly the same way. Some learners are visual, some auditory, some a mixture. The modalities I use to reach more depth of musical understanding are varied, but my singular aim as an educator is to illuminate how to harness the mastery of music so that you lay the fecund ground for your own limitless creativity.
Yours in Creativity,
Ali Rapetti, MT-BC
much of starling pedagogy is inspired by victor wooten and his illuminating book "THe MUSIC LESSON"