Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Teaching the Adult Student

Below is an article from Powell artist Susan Levitin.  Susan is an Artist Faculty member of the Sherwood Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois.

Teaching the Adult Student

In recent years I have found myself teaching many more adult students. The majority of them have played flute before and have taken a hiatus of a few decades.  There are also some students who have begun as adults to relax from their professions or to be able to play music with their children.  Some are the parents of younger students whom I teach.

Working with adults requires a different approach.  With my high school students and aspiring professionals I set a structured curriculum geared to basic technique and musicianship.  I include standard repertoire, excerpts, recitals, competitions, etc. and I expect a certain time commitment. The relationship is one of professor (or teacher) to student and is more formal.

 My relationship with my adult students is that of coach/colleague/friend. We set goals mutually depending on their interests and available time for playing. I am only as demanding as they want me to be.   Only a few adults want to work on a lot of technical studies.  Most are more interested in playing for enjoyment rather than serious practicing, so I introduce technique as solutions to problems that come up in the music. A few adults are very serious about their playing. I take my cues from them and challenge them more.

Most of my adult students are interested in playing with others. I set up flute trios and quartets that meet regularly in my studio. I also match them with adult piano and string students. I also try to arrange performances for them. This year I have an adult flute trio doing a series of holiday programs for hospitals and retirement homes.

 Adults often have serious performance anxiety issues so I address those with performance classes for 4-6 students each month. I also throw a few concert parties in the home with potluck dinner following.  Everyone plays either a solo or in an ensemble and we all socialize afterwards. It gives the adult student a goal, a musical/social outlet and a sense of accomplishment.

Teaching adults can be a very satisfying challenge.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


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