As we near the end of 2015, I can't help but marvel at how much can change in just twelve short months. I dissolved a teaching studio of nearly 40 students, started a sabbatical, became a certified teacher of three different professional teaching organizations, began developing a definitive ten-year curriculum for the learning of violin/viola/cello, and accepted the opportunity to apply these same curriculums in support of music schools in Kuwait and now Alaska!
At the beginning of the year, I knew that Hammond Ashley Violins would be closing its doors in June, and in turn, closing the doors to my studio. Even though I had ample time to find a new studio location, something inside of me told me to look for a different opportunity. At the dismay of family, friends, colleagues, parents and students, I gave back my keys to the building and started down a road where I didn't know was going...
At first, I thought I wanted to create online tutorials for YouTube so that my reach would be broader, giving me the ability to impact well over the 40 students I had formerly been able to influence. However, with a new baby, a four-year-old, and barking dogs in the house, it was almost impossible to find quiet time to film, and even when I could, there was bound to be an interruption. I reluctantly benched that project even though three months of preparation and research went into it.
With half of my sabbatical gone, I started scrambling for something tangible to show for my six-month break - some kind of accomplishment. I began receiving my acceptance letters from different music education organizations which allowed me to enroll students in their curriculum programs. Being a certified teacher of three different certificate programs made me feel a little better about scrapping half of my precious sabbatical. That is, until I started going over their curriculums...
I found myself agreeing with very little of what they put down on paper. "This is not logical." "This is way too hard for a student at that level." "I would find that piece so demotivating to play." It seemed I always had a critique up my sleeve. And finally, this telling thought: "If I were to put a curriculum together, it would be SO much better." Was I just saying that because I was frustrated with what I was working with? Or on some level, did I really believe it to be true?
I decided to put my money where my mouth was. I gathered fifteen different curriculums - from national and state standards to famed pedagogues who taught at Juilliard and Curtis. I cross-referenced and analyzed all the data and added in my own philosophies and experiences gained in the teaching studio. I wanted a curriculum that I could use for my own students, but also one that was so logical, so sequential, and so well-graded that even a brand new teacher right out of college could use it to produce exceptional results in even the most average of students.
It was ironic that an old friend from college was looking for precisely such a system to become the basis for the first school of Western music in Kuwait. When I think of my work being able to influence people on the other side of the globe, I am both thrilled and indebted. Thrilled that I will be able to give a gift to the world that reaches far beyond my own means. Indebted to all the teachers who have taught me and to all the students who have taught me how to teach; without them, I would not have the skills and experience to create something like this in the first place.
So, as I prepare for 2016, I am getting ready to say hello to a new studio space, a re-branding of my teaching studio, the potential within new students, and the opportunity to train and coach teaching teams in Kuwait and Alaska. As Robert Frost so eloquently put it, "I took the (road) less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."