ICA Facebook Page Conversation


by Diane Barger, ICA Pedagogy Chair

I’m sharing a post from our International Clarinet Association Facebook group page for my first entry on our new “Pondering Pedagogy” link. As many of us are about to embark on a new school year, I’d like to start a discussion from one of our ICA members, Liz Aleksander, who recently responded to my inquiry about topics to explore on this new section of the ICA website. Liz wrote: Having started at a school where I was lucky to have mostly young students, I’d welcome discussion on how to get students to “buy in” to high standards – this isn’t particularly specific to clarinet, necessarily, but is surely something a lot of teachers go through at some point.”

I asked people to respond to Liz’s question, and here are some of the responses:

Forest Aten shared this article with the group: http://education.jhu.edu/…/The%20Center…/berger.htm


My response was as follows: “As I begin my 23rd year at UNL, I, too, remember those early days when I had to build the foundation of the standards I wanted to have my studio embody. I quickly learned that I could not hold that young studio I inherited to the standards I was expected to uphold at Northwestern during Robert Marcellus’s era, or when I was a student of Frank Kowalsky at Florida State. It simply was not “fair” to expect that of these students. So, what I tried to do over time was to slowly introduce those standards to my students by, first and foremost, being a role model of those behaviors I wanted them to embody, as well as talk to them frequently about the goals and ideals I had for my studio and my students. (However, I also should point out that I never expect my students to be just like me; never would I ever want to make cookie-cutter mini-me’s. I want my students to be individuals with their own best versions of themselves. I am a bit overly organized, for example, and I would never expect that of my students.) Forest Atin’s article posted above uses the word “culture” in its title, and I could not agree more; it is truly building a culture within your studio, whether it be as a private teacher or university teacher, that is of primary importance. We cannot force that culture upon our students, as they need to “buy into” the process and ideals of that said culture, so it is up to the instructor to lead them on that path. Once students begin to believe in and follow your ideals for your studio, they then become the role models (in addition to you, of course) for the new students coming in to the studio each year. This occurs in my studio each year as new students “learn the ropes” of our collaborative teaching and learning exercise tool we use on a weekly basis. They quickly see the value in this exercise and take ownership of it. This may sound a little cheesy, but to quote a line from “Field of Dreams”, “If you build it, (they) will come.” Start laying the foundation of the culture you wish to create; over time, your vision will be realized.”


Amie Ma wrote: “This is a great reflection. As a middle school teacher, it is interesting to read about how students are the arbiter of what they will “buy-into”. I also think being a role-model of these high standards is so crucial. They will be able to observe the physical/real-life manifestations of what adhering to high-standards of themselves in life and their craft will look like. Students will also be able to see how someone can benefit from the rewards of keeping the bar high.”


Joshua R. Mietz wrote: “I agree with Diane 100%. In some institutions, instructors wrestle with this problem at the departmental level, as well and create a significant juxtaposition between the studios with (what most of us would call) average standards and studios with below average standards. I am interested to hear Diane, et. al expand this discussion to include colleagues: how does one influence their colleagues and their respective studios to buy in to the idea of high standards as well?”


London Silas Shavers wrote: “The education of any student is a somewhat selfish endeavor for me as I invariably become the student at some juncture in the teaching process. Providing direction and instruction is a responsibility which I undertake with much gravity. The acts of clearly imparting information, stimulating minds, and assisting in real growth of students are at the core of my teaching. I advocate, cultivate, and require critical thinking from my students. Students at any level are 100% responsible for their education. Their efforts and commitment are directly proportional to what they learn. As a facilitator and motivator, I am 100% responsible for providing explicit instruction and an environment in which students can realize successful completion of goals of a given course. Establishing clear standards, a supportive atmosphere for learning, and objective evaluation allows students room for successes. Their achievements can then evolve into the confidence for further discovery, exploration, and ultimately into the courage necessary to take artistic risks and experience real musical growth. A student does not adjust to me, but my flexibility with and adjustment to individual needs is necessary for their upwards spiral in skill levels, creative endeavors, and conceptual expansions. Mutual respect is earned in the student/teaching relationship and is activated by my careful listening and advisement. By demonstrating real enthusiasm for the material and instructing by observation and not by imposition, my intention is to enhance the student’s own search, discovery, and progression of their artistic evolution.”

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Many thanks!

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