Music is a language. And we learn it in the same way. I believe that a great music education begins with experience hearing, feeling, and playing music, and this is why I believe that every student should be playing and creating music from their very first lesson. My approach can be described as "total immersion." I try to get students reading music as early as possible. For small children who are not ready for reading, we experience music through duets, rote pieces, singing, and movement. I incorporate a lot of duets to expose students to complex harmonies, feeling tempos, and playing with artistry from the very beginning.
Experience. Symbol. Name. Theory is REALLY important, but it can also be really confusing. I teach theory in context, through games, composition, and the pieces they are playing. When teaching theory, I first allow students to experience the concept through their music. Once they have experienced the concept, they can learn to symbolize and name it through games and composition.
Speaking of Composition...We teach children to both read and write, but so often music education is limited to reading and playing the music of others. I believe that it is equally important for students to learn to create and write their own music. Even very young students can learn to improvise and make up their own tunes. Theory is solidified when students use it to write their own compositions.
Technique. My dad likes to tell this story about when I was a little girl. He was playing our piano at home, and I told him "Daddy, that was beautiful, but your technique was terrible!" I hate to call myself a stickler, but technique is very important to me. Proper, relaxed technique will allow students to developed into great musicians from early on. Without good technique you cannot play with artistry and subtlety, and you are setting yourself up for pain later in life. From the very first lesson we concentrate on playing with relaxed hands and proper posture.
Wide Exposure with Personal Goals in Mind. Not every student I teach is going to be a classical musician. Some will, but for most, my goal is simply to give them the gift of music that will last them a lifetime. I expose students to a variety of genres and styles. We play lots of classical music and themes. We play jazz and lyrical and pop music. We learn to read chord charts and lead sheets. We learn to improvise and play by ear. Wide exposure allows students to find what they love, and when they find something they love, I help them foster that love into something that they can carry with them throughout their lives.