Submitted by Mary Tickner

As readers have probably noticed, books are a passion of mine. Occasionally one finds a book that really changes and affects your life, particularly your chosen profession, such as “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. I now consider “Music Teaching Style” by Alan Gumm be another one. To quote from one of the reviews on the book jacket: “readers will be quite taken, as I was, by some of the graphic representations of the teaching act, and by clear delineations of qualities and traits that comprise the teaching of music across age/grade levels and specializations”.

Each chapter has a specific concept title, plus sub-sections, and superb questions for discussion or thought at the conclusion. Several chapters also include special exercises designed to assist the reader in evaluating their status relative to the topic. Space limitations permit limited discussion of the contents; therefore, I have limited my review and comments to the following chapters:

Chapter 1 – Setting The Context: while there is much material in this chapter, of particular interest is an opportunity in three exercises to define the related concepts of a music teacher (personality, learning style and effective teaching, which involves video-taping some teaching sessions). The directions are very clear, and, with the exception for the video-taping which I have yet to do, are not only interesting but revealing. Some areas that could use some help: instead of video-taping, I think I will try an observation diary that is suggested.

Chapter 13: Know Yourself: the first sub-heading was most appropriate: “You Get What You Pay For”. Later in the chapter the following statement definitely defines the act of teaching on occasion: “What you put into your teaching is what you get back from your students, but sometimes with an unexpected twist of results.” Of particular interest to me, personally, was the section on teaching the way we were taught and to keep an open mind because there are frequent clashes between the past and the present – for example, how do you introduce scales to a beginner?

Chapter 14 – Know your Students: This reminds one that we all learn the same way and the best way to know your students is similar to knowing yourself and the realities of their world and your world. The final subsection discusses student motivation which the author believes is the “key to success in knowing how the individual student learns”. You match your style to theirs for maximum results.

Chapter 15 – Know your Subject Matters: As teachers, we all accept transfer students, and we usually get surprises, some pleasant and some off the wall! While no one is a perfect teacher, it does come as a shock when a diploma student considers a rhythmic problem of 2 against 3 as her Mount Everest of rhythmic proportions, or coming to you with a repertoire program (already begun) of technical difficulty that is obviously beyond the student’s technical and musical abilities; the teacher must have wishful thinking or irrational optimism. Similarly, consider the elementary pedagogy certificate student who has failed the written test and was surprised to find that there are more ways to introduce reading to beginners other than the Middle C approach plus being unaware of other method books or professional texts by outstanding pedagogues who can help the struggling student. We should be open to new discoveries and need to accept the fact that no one knows everything, but teach what you know and do it to the best of your ability. This chapter closed with some very thought provoking questions and a final quote.

1. How much have you remained a student of music as you have taught music?

2. What effect do your personal music making, studies and composing have on your teaching?

3. Which ways are you – most developed in music-performance, conceptual teaching, or creativity? Which is least developed? What other strengths do you bring to music teaching? How is this reflected in your teaching?

A final quote for you all –

You can get by on charm for about 15 minutes. After that, you better know something ~ H. Jackson Brown.

Happy Reading!