Wendy’s Studio Teaching Tenets

I began giving flute lessons in my home in 1972 (as a 16-year-old band student). I knew after the first 30-minute lesson that this would be my career path and I have enjoyed every moment of this lifetime journey. Here are some of my convictions about the highly rewarding but highly accountable vocation as a studio flute teacher.

• Based on Trevor Wye’s introduction in his Practice Books for the Flute, information pills if you apply yourself to consistent practicing using the axiom: TIME, try PATIENCE, and INTELLIGENT WORK, you will make steady progress.

• When a diligent student is following the Wye tenet but continues to make similar errors each week (notes, rhythm, articulation, etc.), the teacher has not presented the material in an appropriate manner. Teachers must discover the student’s learning styles and adjust to them.

• Assignments should be specific and concise with expected outcomes clearly expressed, conveying the necessary practice methods to achieve these goals.

• Materials used in lessons should present the clearest, most direct route to the desired goals (e.g. printed music, recordings, electronics {tuners, metronomes, internet}, live performances and demonstrations, etc.).

• Corrections should be presented in positive forms, indicating correct aspects of the “performance” first, then stating clearly, one issue at a time, how the student can make specific improvements.

• Teachers should establish immediate goals, short and long range goals, and thoroughly and frequently discuss and adjust these with the student.

• Regular, serious practice is encouraged. How, what, when, and how long to practice should be discussed frequently with the student and if under 14, with the parents.

• Families need instruction on how to make their home “user friendly” for the practicing flutist:

  1. Dedicate a room or space in a room for a music stand, a music bag, metronome, tuner, and flute stand (permanently if possible)
  2. Have siblings doing chores, homework, or practicing their instruments while the flutist is practicing. If families are watching TV/movies or participating in “fun” activities without the flutist, practicing starts to resemble a punishment.
  3. Do not interrupt or (unnecessarily) reprimand or criticize the flutist in mid-practice. Rhythmic, pitch, articulation, and/or breathing errors may need some coaching from educated family members, but do this only when asked or if the errors are becoming habitual and “baked in.” Interfering too soon may inhibit progress and musical independence.
  4. Promote extra practice and offer frequent encouragement to the budding flutist
  5. Create positive performing experiences (e.g. please play your newest piece for us tonight after supper, or let’s go play this for our neighbor, or grandma is coming this weekend-what would you like to play for her?)

• The teacher must create performance opportunities, both formal (recitals, concerts, flute ensembles, auditions, etc.) and informal (play for the next student, the attending parent, the friend or cousin who came to the lesson, a colleague, etc.)

• The teacher must play for and with the student (all levels), including duets, demonstrations, examples of future repertoire, unison work on difficult passages, etc. Imitation speeds up the learning curve. Caution: too much unison work may stifle independent reading—especially in the rhythmic realm.

• NEVER touch a student until given permission by the student and a parent and only in the most benign fashion to instruct in breathing, posture, hand position, etc. Even hugs are dangerous unless permission is granted and there is an adult present. Teach in an easily accessed space and have an uncovered window or open door, encouraging others to “look in” unannounced. Run a video or give “audience only” lessons if you are in a closed room studio.

• Teachers need regular refueling through attending professional master classes, recitals, concerts, workshops, conventions, and even social outings with other studio teachers.

• Students will reflect the attitude of the teacher. I recommend and personally offer an enthusiastic, high energy studio.

• Teachers are obligated to create an enjoyable, positive learning environment. They will encourage, support, give relevant feedback, and customize a curriculum specific to each student’s needs. Students are responsible for their own practicing and daily motivation to practice. For teachers to lead effectively, students must do the assigned work.