Teaching

I have been engaged in music education in various capacities for over 15 years, beginning with teaching jazz ensembles at the Acadia University Summer Music Institute, and most recently as the director of the Toronto All-star Big Band. I have taught private lessons and coached ensembles in both jazz and popular music, and taught history, theory, and musicianship at the university level. My instrumental instruction has primarily been on the bass and guitar. For more specific information about my teaching experience, please refer to my
CV.

My basic approach to music education is to find out what my students' goals might be, and then to help them achieve the necessary level of musicianship to enable them to engage creatively with the particular musics that interest them. This broad methodology is supported by my conception of musicianship as a combination of practical skills, theory, and historical knowledge. I base my teaching strategies for each student and ensemble on this three-sided ideal, designing lessons that integrate these points towards the goal of enhancing each student's ability to participate in and enjoy making music.

To read my Philosophy of Teaching,
please click here.

To learn more about my private teaching services, please
click here.

I have also prepared a full Teaching Dossier, which includes a teaching philosophy, a full list of my teaching experience, examples of the materials I have designed in my previous teaching positions, and a summary of student evaluations of my teaching at York University. To read this dossier,
please click here.

Over the course of my teaching career I have developed a series of musicianship exercises to aid students in developing their ears and rhythmic skills. These musicianship exercises can be accessed
here.

Jazz Education

As an example of my approach to music education, here is a description of a book I wrote and published myself in 2006 titled "Contemporary Compositions for Beginning Jazz Ensemble: A Progressive Method to Teaching Jazz Improvisation and Ensemble Performance Practices:"
jazz-cover
"Contemporary Compositions for Beginning Jazz Ensemble" emerged from my work as an instructor at the Acadia University Summer Music Institute, where I conducted beginner and intermediate level jazz combos. As I never knew the level of the students I was going to get each year, I found myself composing pieces that I could tailor to the needs of the particular students in my group. I continued this practice for a number of years, eventually compiling enough material for a book. "Contemporary Compositions for Beginning Jazz Ensemble" addresses many problems I perceived in other commercially available publications. Specifically, I encourage students to learn to improvise using a theme-and-variations approach to manipulating the melody of the pieces, rather than the chord-scale approach which is the dominant model in jazz education. My experience in the classroom has demonstrated to me that this melodic approach gets students comfortable with improvising much faster than starting them with chords and scales, as it allows them to access their own creativity without having to process too much new information. I have also found that over time students develop much more individual approaches to improvising than they do with the currently dominant teaching methods.

The other defining characteristic of the compositions in this book is my use of background figures, which allow students who are not soloing to contribute to the ensemble. This simple technique encourages students to learn the forms of the compositions, and keeps them engaged with the music.

"Contemporary Compositions for Beginning Jazz Ensemble" is currently in use in several Nova Scotia high schools, including: Kings-Edgehill School, Avonview High School, Hants West Middle School, and Dorian Hall Academy of Music. In addition, several of the compositions in this book were been performed at Musicfest Canada 2008 by the community ensemble Easily Distracted (based in Windsor, Nova Scotia), who won a gold standard for their performance.

Here are demonstration recordings of the ten pieces included in the book:
If it sounds like these compositions might suit your band, you are most welcome to order a copy of the book. It ships with a score, a demo CD, and a CD containing PDF files of all the scores and parts, so you can print off as many as needed. All for $60 CAD. Just click on the button below to pay through PayPal, or send me a message through the "contact" link at the bottom of this page if you would like more information.