10 tips on how to be a great teacher

The collaborative piano department at Boston University had a master class with Dr. Andrew Campbell, from Arizona State University.

Here is what makes Dr. Campbell an example to follow for anyone who wants to teach in an inspiring way:
  1. He shared his own personal struggles with the music. My friend Ling played the Kreutzer sonata by Beethoven. After congratulating her on her playing, he explained how she might find ease technically by mentally stripping the texture from its business down to the actual musical theme.

    He also talked about the difficulty of being together with the violinist and ways he had discovered to solve those problems with visual cues after playing it many times with his wife, a violinist.

  2. When he talked about phrasing, he never imposed his own ideas on anyone. He offered a few suggestions, but never seemed to think that he had the right answer. He shared what he heard, which was a lack of phrasing, and trusted the student to find their own way.

  3. He explained why teachers pick on what's wrong instead of focusing on what's right. "If a violin player plays out of tune the whole time, well, too bad. But if a violinist plays in tune 80% of the time, then the 20% that is not in tune becomes really annoying."

    Just by saying that, he made the entire room understand that the performer had done 80% of right thing. How comforting!

  4. When a problem happened in the performance, he called it a "booboo," turning it into a lesson instead of something shameful. For example, when a singer forgot the words to a song and that her and the pianist had to start again from where they left off, many teachers would have made a big deal about it.

    He simply said that it was life and that that king of things happen often enough, and took that opportunity to teach us about what to do if that situation was to happen on stage.

  5. After he asked performers to change things, he complimented them on their ability to make an adjustment so fast, which many teachers take for granted.

  6. He talked about the piano with detachment, making the instrument itself the reason of difficulties and challenges in the performer's playing, instead of the performer's playing itself.

  7. When he mentioned more than two points to a performer, he summarized all of them one last time right before the performer try the piece again.

  8. He asked a few times if the performer's playing was enjoyable to them, either during the first time performing, or when performing with adjustments. This was a good reminder that originally, we all came to music for fun, and that even when working, enjoyment is to be found.

  9. He was conscious of the impact he could have on students. When he asked more of someone than of someone else, he asked he was being too mean, or he mentioned that he was being very picky at that moment. That way students focused on the work at hand, and did not take things personally.

  10. He seemed to want to learn from the students. He asked many questions, and was happy to discover that some students had thoughts of things that were new to him.
My personal favorite moment of the afternoon was when after hearing two students of the collaborative department perform, he told our teacher: "you are a lucky lady hearing this level of playing very day."

In the end, what I think this all comes to, is, to be a great teacher, one has to be a great human being.

Picture from http://www.life.com/image/50671184


  1. I really enjoyed his class too! You're right, I can tell he is a great teacher and a really nice person as well. It was cool to see a great teacher in action and now I'm going to try to put some of his techniques into action in my own teaching.

  2. These were really good points. I have a blog about learning to lead music and other associated things, www.exploringsingup.livejournal.com/, and would love to repost the points there if you give permission? I would of course direct readers back here too.

  3. Of course you may share this article with your readers! I'm happy to know that you enjoyed it!


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