Why teach?

I have been teaching in many capacities for as long as I can remember. I love teaching music because it gives both the student and teacher the opportunity to grow as artists through detailed listening, careful reflection and creative problem solving.

It is profoundly satisfying to watch students overcome challenges and discover the joy in their diligent practice is an improved ability to communicate their musical voice.

It is an honor to participate in the great apprenticeship tradition of teaching music, passing knowledge down to the next generation of ambitious players as my teachers did for me.

I guide students to embrace, not only achievement of their larger goals, but the process of dedicated music study itself. Through this they find joy in the practice of creative trial and error, seeking out tiny, incremental gains that add up to major improvements over time. Patience is key.

Teaching Experience

While pursuing my master of music degree at Rice University, I served as Adjunct Professor of Trumpet at San Jacinto College where I mentored trumpet students from diverse backgrounds, collaborated on faculty recitals, served on student juries and helped coach the brass choir. I completed my Doctorate of Musical Arts at Stony Brook University in 2016 where my scholarly research focused on the influence of electronic music on modern compositional techniques. Recently, I worked on the compilation, editing and typesetting of Carmine Caruso, a sequel to Musical Calisthenics for Brass, published by Hal Leonard. We created an accompanying online video lesson series Caruso and Beyond, on which I collaborated on the content and helped to recruit hundreds of social media followers and paid subscribers. As an artist for the S.E. Shires company, I have presented master classes at Yale University and Texas Tech on trumpet design and the manufacture of custom instruments and at Colorado State University, where I was invited for a recital and master class as a candidate for their trumpet professor position. I currently resides in Dekalb, Illinois where I am Professor of Trumpet at Northern Illinois University. 

Demonstrated Teaching Success

I have nearly two decades of teaching experience in many different settings including my own private studio, group classes during the school day, masterclasses, workshops and clinics after school and private lessons for community music schools and conservatories. My students have included beginners, correctly setting up their embouchure, posture, and playing fundamentals and advancing high school students, performing successful all-state auditions, ambitious solo and ensemble competitions, and challenging marching band, wind ensemble and jazz band repertoire. I have worked with students on successful auditions for competitive undergraduate music conservatories as well as winning their division at the National Trumpet Competition. Youth orchestras in Boston, Houston and Chicago have invited me as a guest coach and clinician for their brass sections. My college students have worked to advance their technique, expand their repertoire, and perform successful juries, recitals and won competitive Graduate Assistantship positions. Through their studies with me, adult “come-back” players have successfully improved their trumpet playing towards successful performances with their community orchestra, wind ensemble or brass band after many years away from the instrument. I have coached colleagues on successful audition preparation for symphony orchestras and highly competitive auditions for commercial positions in NYC.

My Teaching Philosophy 

As an educator, it is my job to help my students develop the skills necessary to become dynamic performers and teachers. I believe in a flexible and positive approach, responsive to the unique strengths, weaknesses and musical goals of each student. 

1.) Self-expression through Sound

The great joy of performing music is in its ability to communicate with other human beings and transmit emotions using sound rather than words. It is this excitement of sound, which makes us spontaneously move, dance and feel emotions, that first sparked our interest in music and drew us to pursue it. My philosophy of teaching places this fundamental joy of self-expression through sound at the center, never forgetting that the hard work of music study free us to feel the joy of performing and experience the communicative power our expression has on audiences.

2.) Honoring each students different learning style and musical goals

There are many ways to be a musician and as a teacher I want to first understand what music the student loves and why they want to study it. Using this information we can create a customized curriculum of repertoire and studies that give the student strong technical proficiency and a wide palate of musicianship skills that will make them dynamic, expressive performers in any area. That may include playing in an orchestra, chamber ensemble, concert or military band, jazz ensemble, popular or commercial music, or charting their own course as an entrepreneur, composing and creating their own groups, as well as becoming skilled educators teaching band or private lessons to the next generation. 

3.) Seek musical solutions to technical challenges

We are musicians, who happen to play the trumpet. While everyone learns in different ways, I encourage my students to search for musical solutions to playing problems. Improvement happens quickly when we clarify and strengthen the image in our mind of what we want to hear and then are able to sing it through our instrument. To further overcome technical challenges, I advocate for a scientific method approach of trial and error and creative problem solving strategies. We must ask difficult questions to find the path towards progress, and the more specific we can make our questions, the clearer the solutions will be. 

4.) Learn to teach ourselves

Above all my job is to teach students to teach themselves. In order to succeed they must take the information we discuss and put it into practice, making sense of it on their own. Coordination of the fine motor skills involved in playing a musical instrument can only be achieved through hard work, dedication and repetition until they become second nature. Only then can the instrument become an extension of their inner voice and allow the player to maintain focus on self-expression through music, and not on the operation of the instrument. 

5.) Music grows the whole person

Learning music makes us more well-rounded human beings. It improves a whole range of life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, listening and responding, discipline, creative problem-solving, imagination, self-expression, self-assessment self- reflection and many more that transfer into all other areas of life and learning. 

My teaching style 

1.) Targeted Practice=Faster Results 

I encourage all of my students to have a targeted approach to practice. I ask them to schedule when they will practice, what material will they work on and what their specific goals are for each session so that they will get the most out of however much time they have available to practice. Formulating very specific goals leads to better practice habits, less mindless repetition and more thoughtful, variable practice, employing creative solutions to problems that stick long-term. It also produces a more acute sense of progress and achievement from a single attempt at a particular passage, to an entire practice session, increasing motivation and momentum to continue investing in the process and a larger sense of increasing accomplishment. 

2.) Freedom to Fail

While making mistakes may seem painful to students, I see it as the most exciting part of the journey. It is that moment in which we learn the most. I strive to create an open, positive, and nurturing environment that allows students to fail confidently and quickly see where they can improve.

3.) Team-work makes it easier

We often learn as much from our peers as we do from our teachers and mentors. I encourage my students to collaborate and support each other, to play for each other regularly, to listen to each other and to build a culture of teamwork and camaraderie. The oftentimes-daunting project of improving ourselves as musicians and trumpet players is easier when we encourage each other and build each other up. This culture of respect and kindness makes my students good human beings that people want to hire, recommend, and work with. They build relationships that will last a lifetime.