Statement of Teaching

Download a printable version

Teaching Aims and Principles

What defines me as a teacher is the personal attention and time I devote to my students, the quality of instruction I give to my students, and the team player attitude I bring to the music department at The University of North Florida. Those who know my work would say I go above and beyond the call of duty. My teaching philosophy is simple: I will spend as much time outside of my required class time as necessary, to make sure that I give my students the tools to improve themselves and to give themselves the best chance to succeed, whether it be in my class, in their careers after UNF, or in life in general.

Course Responsibilities

ISQ Results

The overall instructor ratings are averaged for the courses that I regularly teach. Instructors are rated on a number of criteria with 0 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest.

Annual Evaluation Results

  Teaching Service Research
2007–2008 Exemplary Exemplary Exemplary
2008–2009 Exemplary Exemplary Exemplary
2009–2010 Exemplary Exemplary Exemplary
2010–2011 Exemplary Exemplary Exemplary
2011–2012 Exemplary Exemplary Exemplary

Goals

My main responsibility at UNF is to help build a string program and create an environment where cello students learn at a rapid rate. That being said, the lecture courses I teach also play a role in regard to nurturing the non-music majors. Since I came to UNF in the fall of 2007, I have created a new and dynamic environment in the string area. During the past five school years, I have rewarded my cello students additional lessons when there is evidence of strong practice and work ethic. This was done to ensure that my students were constantly practicing and preparing. The results were that the students improved at an unprecedented rate. As an example, my college cello student Brittany Maroney, who had never had regular private cello lessons before college, won the most outstanding musician award in the department all four years in residence at UNF

I also created a cello performance and technique class that meets for two hours each week to give my students performance and teaching opportunities while becoming more technically proficient on their instrument. This class is offered in addition to my regular teaching load. Many high school cellists and non-string players have attended the class. The high school cellists attending the class have helped create more public awareness of the strength of my studio. There is no load credit for the extra cello lessons or studio class, but I believe strongly that my donated time has paid huge dividends in the overall improvement of each cellist under my tutelage. It is also my belief that students benefit and will improve more when associating with other good musicians. Consequently, I am recruiting more high potential cello students by raising my profile, the DOM’s profile, and the profile of UNF around the state. My scholarly research and service activities are, in large part, driven by that philosophy.

Master Classes

It is crucial to me to create life-changing learning opportunities for my cello students. I have invited and hosted internationally famous cellists to work with my students. UNF cello students have had the opportunity to learn from world class cello soloists and to have one-on-one instruction with these musicians. In the past five years, renowned cellists Matt Haimovitz, Antonio Meneses, Alisa Weilerstein, Felix Wang, Eric Stephenson, Wilhelmina Smith, Greg Sauer, Alban Gerhardt, Hans Jorgen Jensen, Mike Block, and Lynn Harrell have presented master classes at UNF. These classes are transformational for the students because of the caliber of the invited musicians: Haimovitz, Meneses, Weilerstein, Gerhardt, and Harrell are world-class cellists recording CDs and performing all over the world as soloists with leading orchestras. Jensen and Harrell have both been named ASTA artist teachers of the year, one of the highest teaching honors a string teacher can receive in the United States.

The opportunity to play for internationally renowned players and teachers is highly motivating, inspiring, and informative, and, for this reason, I have fundraised extensively to cover these events. We have been able to financially compensate the artists as well as the piano accompanist fees so that the students incur no additional cost for these opportunities.

Further, I use these classes as recruiting tools for UNF and for the betterment of the arts in the community. Each time I host a master class or artist, I invite area schools such as Douglas Anderson, Lavilla, Jacksonville symphony members, as well as many community members and orchestra directors in the state. I have also invited talented string students throughout Florida to perform in these classes and thus increase our public visibility. I use these classes in part to recruit high level high school students who attend and participate. It is highly unusual to have hosted so many classes of this caliber in such a short time. My students will graduate with competitive and strong resumes including their close interaction with many internationally famous cellists.

Growth of the UNF String Program

When considering the position at UNF in 2007, one of the most attractive aspects was the chance to work with talented and motivated colleagues and build a strong string program. In my five academic years, I have put a “team player” ethic behind that goal. Simon Shiao and I have combined our recruiting efforts to nearly double the size of the UNF orchestra and I have more than tripled the number of cellists. This involved traveling over 2,000 miles in recruiting trips in just one school year. We have taken the string department at UNF to a historic high in both quality and in quantity of applicants. Our orchestra is now capable of performing much more challenging repertoire. UNF colleagues and community musicians are impressed at the progress of our string students and it is professionally gratifying to hear the difference in sound and to note that the orchestra has a new-found respect from my colleagues, the community, and musicians in the state.

Pre-College Teaching

I take pride in the growth of my pre-college cello studio. Currently, I have six pre-college students, and my pre-college studio has grown tremendously in overall quality. This is evidenced by the number of my students that play in the Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra’s top ensembles and by their success in receiving scholarship to attend prestigious summer music programs. Further, they have competed in the Florida Federation of Music Clubs competition the last two years and all of my students have received superior ratings in every category in which they competed. In addition to this contest, my pre-college students have had success in other events. Ivey Cuffe won second prize in the 2012 BRASS ring string competition. Hannah Hoffman, now a sophomore at UNF, was a finalist in the Northwest Florida Concerto Competition and won the Concert on the Green contest which allowed her to solo with the Jacksonville Symphony. I currently have two students in the most elite ensemble at Douglas Anderson High School, which accounts for half the section. My high school students have been admitted and received scholarships to prestigious summer festivals including Brevard, Sewanee Summer Institute, and the Canon Music Camp.

College Student Performances and Contests

I have also created a multitude of performing opportunities for my college students because performing pushes them to practice and thus make stronger progress. My students have stayed motivated and have worked hard because I am constantly pushing them towards new goals. They perform regularly and enter contests such as Ars Flores, Ocala Concerto Competition, Florida Northwest Symphony Concerto Competition, ASTA solo competition, high school All-State auditions, Concert on the Green, and others. I have required my students to play often in the performance laboratory class, which includes all music majors. They are encouraged to do a recital every year they are at UNF. I have recommended my students for performing engagements and concerts throughout Northeast Florida and Georgia and my students have had success playing the cello in the professional world. Many of my students have had significant experience playing with professionals including Jacksonville Symphony players as well as me, and one has enjoyed time as a part time member of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia.

Student Involvement at Conferences and Clinics

Student Brittany Maroney assisted me at both the FMEA and FSMTNA conferences in Tampa and Gainesville, respectively. The FMEA session, where Brittany demonstrated many of the teaching concepts I was discussing, was attended by over 90 orchestral musicians, including many high school directors, and put UNF in a very positive light. Hannah Hoffman and Andre Washington assisted me in presentations at the Florida Music Educators Association conference and at the regional College Music Society conference, as well as in high school visits to Orlando. Hannah, Andre and Ariadna Perez also accompanied me to the American String Teachers Association national conference in Atlanta in the spring of 2012.

My entire cello studio accompanied me to Boca Raton for the 2010 Cellobration. My students performed and assisted the lower level students in attendance. Having my college students at this event not only made the overall quality of the performance better, but it was a great experience for them to have roles of leadership. Over eighty cellists attended and the event quickly led to several talented high school cellists applying to be students of mine at UNF.

Summer Study

I have also helped my students in receiving summer festival training by writing recommendations and preparing them for auditions. Anna Wilson was a scholarship student at Sewanee Summer Music Festival and I significantly aided her acceptance to study with world-renowned cello teacher Hans Jorgen Jensen at the Meadowmount Summer Music Festival in the summer of 2009. Senior cellist Andre Washington spent the summer of 2012 at Meadowmount on a full scholarship studying with Hans Jensen, who is also the cello professor at Northwestern University. Hannah Hoffman also attended Meadowmount in the summer of 2012 studying with Melissa Kraut, cello professor at the Cleveland Institute. Both Hannah and Andre received TLO funding to help with their travel to New York. Brittany Maroney gained valuable teaching experience at the UNF string camp as my assistant, teaching young students basic concepts of playing the cello. She also helped students from the Butler school as a mentor and teacher during the summers.

Student Success

My college students have had some notable success in addition to being accepted by elite summer festivals.

Course Overview

String Chamber Music: In my String Chamber Music course, I have tried to follow my cello teaching philosophy within these ensembles by creating performing opportunities and bringing in guest artists. In my time at UNF, I have created opportunities for the students to perform for and work with professional string quartets including the Enso String Quartet, the Jupiter String Quartet, the Harlem String Quartet, the Cypress String Quartet, the Blakemore Piano Trio, Quartetto Gelato, the Claremont Piano Trio, Brooklyn Rider, the Ying String Quartet, Time for Three, and the Copland House chamber musicians. These groups are world class ensembles that perform all over the world and our students will have gained great insight on string playing while enhancing their resumes as they prepare for grad school and employment. One of the quartets I coach was invited to perform at the state conference (American Choral Directors Association) with the collegiate women’s honor chorus, providing valuable performance experience while simultaneously raising UNF’s profile.

Enjoyment of Music: In addition to changing the culture of string studies at UNF, I have made significant changes in my approach to other courses as well. For the Enjoyment of Music class, I started using a new text, incorporated a CD ROM component, brought in guest artists, played cello for the students, and used videos to further engage the students. I created multiple ways for the students to study by using a CD ROM, using a website with test questions, and providing them with a student friendly text. I also supported UNF’s mission to help the students with their writing by creating a required writing component in the class through a written concert review and providing extra credit writing assignments.

African American Heritage: I have continued to support UNF’s writing requirement in the African American Heritage class, which I began teaching in the summer of 2008. In this class, students gain real life experience by working in small groups; writing a 12–20 page paper (depending on group size); creating a power point presentation; and presenting their topic to the class. In this class, I also bring in a local African American church musician to introduce the students to an African American church service. I also regularly bring in other artists to perform live examples of all the music we discuss.

String Repertory: In my string repertory class, I created a new syllabus which involved learning all of the major cello repertory by ear, the major orchestral repertoire, and writing 5–7 page papers at the end of each semester. The combination of these elements made the students much more knowledgeable about the cello repertoire, more prepared for employment or graduate school, and better writers.

Summer Teaching

During the summer months when I am not performing, I split time between teaching approximately 20 cello students at the Tennessee Valley Music Festival and the UNF Music Camp, teaching approximately ten pre-college cello students, and, for three summers at UNF, teaching African American Musical Heritage in the Summer B session. At the Tennessee Valley Music Festival, I teach two different groups of cellists every day in a master class setting and coach two chamber groups of varying levels. At the UNF music camp, I also teach master classes to cellists in a group setting and coach two chamber music groups. I have also presented master classes at the Prelude Summer Music Camp. In the summer of 2012, I received my highest honor as a pedagogue, when I joined the faculty at the Meadowmount School of Music for two weeks teaching forty students each week, leading a four-hour technique class, and running a four-hour performance class. Meadowmount is the premiere camp for strings in the country and counts Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell, and Pinchas Zucherman among its alumni.

Teaching Summary While at the University of South Dakota (2004–2007)

Prior to joining the faculty at UNF, I tripled the size of the cello studio at the University of South Dakota (USD) and created the largest and strongest cello studio in the history of the University by recruiting at nearly thirty high schools per year and by being highly visible in the state as a performer and teacher. At USD I taught Music Appreciation, taught applied cello lessons for undergraduate and graduate students, co-directed undergraduate and graduate students in the USD chamber orchestra, and coached chamber music. My ISQ ratings were consistently well above satisfactory. In addition, one of my college students won the state MTNA competition and another student was hired to teach chorus and orchestra in a K–12 school.

Summary

I am highly dedicated to helping my students achieve excellence. Students and faculty at UNF recognize my investment in the program because my ISQ evaluations have been well above average every year and I have been nominated on three different occasions for the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. I am motivated daily by the progress of my students, the growth in quality and quantity of the department, the enhanced standing of the string program within the university, and the potential of what UNF can become.