I taught my first lessons at 16 at the suggestion of my band director, who was probably just trying to keep me out of trouble over the summer. As much as my teenage self hated to admit it, it was a remarkable and humbling experience, watching each of my small groups of students turn into small groups of saxophonists. Since then I've taught hundreds of students and thousands of lessons as a private instructor, and worked as a classroom teacher, band and choral conductor, musical theater director, and small ensemble coach, and given lectures on music and teaching to conservatory and graduate students, and at professional development events for teachers.
Many, many musicians teach only begrudgingly and out of financial necessity, even in major institutions of higher education (yeah, those ones). Teaching isn't an easy pursuit nor one for the dispassionate. With nearly 20 years of experience I've developed methods and curricula designed to cultivate meticulous musicianship, encourage and nurture the creative spirit and individual voice, and sow the seeds for lifelong learning and music-making.
"A teacher must tell his students something for the thousandth time with the same enthusiasm, clarity, and compassion as the first."
Beginning an instrument is an exciting and daunting endeavor at any age! Finding a good instrument, selecting materials, and establishing good playing habits, a positive practice routine, and specific, achievable goals are key to success. Just as important is discovering the music itself, both live and recorded, the way an artist gathers inspiration by wanking through a museum.
One of my teachers, Ken Radnofsky, plays with the Boston Symphony and teaches some of the best classical saxophonists in the world. He also has and continues to teach beginners. He would often ask his graduate students to come in on weekends to work with his younger students and ensembles. When I asked him about this years ago, he reminded me how important it was to remain grounded in teaching - as a teacher, it's easy to forget what it was like to know nothing.
Do you want to jam with friends/neighbors/coworkers/strangers? Play with a community band or orchestra? Sit in at local jam sessions? Perform at church? Gig on the local scene? Keep up with your musical kids?
I'm always inspired by the number of adults I see taking up music, either for the first time or again after a few (or many) years. Music and the brain are quite remarkable - I've had many students who haven't picked their instruments up in 20-plus years find themselves quickly playing better than they thought they every would, and enjoying rich, fulfilling musical lives as adults.
By setting tangible, achievable goals for practice and progress, we can work together toward your musical ambitions, and to find the joy in playing, practicing, and performing.
Improvisation is the ultimate synergy of intuition and calculation, left-brain and right.
Most people naturally lean one way or the other - some eating up the theory and math of improvisation, while others prefer follow their ears. Often the best improvisors do both.
While living in Boston I was fortunate to study with the legendary jazz pedagogue Charlie Banacos. Charlie was the consummate teacher, able to instantly assess a student's strengths and shortcomings, and with surgical precision assign exercises to address all areas of playing. His teaching emphasized breaking jazz down into core princples and behaviors, and exploiting them to make practice efficient and effective. There's a saying in Boston that "all roads lead to Charlie Banacos."
During the same period I studied with the master saxophonist George Garzone. George's teaching focused on sound, time, and developing both the "inner" ear. This intuitive practice encourages the student to push back the boundaries of what they hear and play, while remaining rooted in creating a depth of tone, range of expression, and subtle yet precise sense of rhythm.
My jazz teaching strives to combine these perspectives and others into a comprehensive, targeted, and practical approach to hearing more deeply, improvising uninhibitedly, and creating intuitively.
What to practice? When? How much? How long will it take? Why am I not making progress? It all starts with reaching out.
Let's start by having a conversation about your music experience, interests, and goals. By discussing where you're at and where you want to be, we can come up with an action plan to get you there.
Regular private lessons are the most effective way to make consistent and meaningful musical progress. Even if you're playing and practicing regularly, a dedicated time with a teacher provides a forum for the inspiration, feedback, and accountability to improve. Early lessons are focused on developing technique, sound, musicianship, and practice habits. As the student advances, lesson materials evolve based on student needs, interests, and my experience as an instructor.
Consistent practice, trust in the process, frequent absorbtion of music away from the instrument, and a little suspension of disbelief will lead to success.
I currently offer lessons in the Baltimore metro area in saxophone, flute, clarinet, jazz improvisation (on any instrument), and ear training/music theory/solfège.
Technology is an amazing thing with the power to bring us together in ways we could never have imagined a decade or two ago. I had never taught a remote lesson until I received an unsolicited request from halfway around the world in 2012. Skeptically I agreed to give it a shot, and have given hundreds of remote lessons since.
I offer jazz improvisation lessons for any instrument via Skype, specifically tailored to students wishing to take their jazz playing to the next level. Potential students are given an initial evaluation to determine if Skype lessons are appropriate for their level and learning style. Each lesson comes with a practice assignment in PDF format, specifically tailored to the student's needs.
A working webcam and microphone are required for remote lessons - tablet or computer preferred. An outboard USB microphone or XLR microphone is highly recommended, as they'll give the best representation of your sound. Backing tracks or apps (iRealPro, Band In A Box) on the student side are also recommended.
Dennis - Washington, DC
Lois - Boston, MA
Rachel - Bethesda, MD
Jason - Beijing, CN (Skype)