James Naigus

Teaching Philosophy :

My philosophy of teaching consists of five major pillars: the student, fundamentals, creativity, the complete musician, and self-analysis. Every student has a different background, set of experiences, and goals or desires, and so every student should be treated uniquely and individually in those regards. My approach to both studio teaching and classroom teaching not only accounts for this range of ambitions and interests, but also the opportunity for the student to find and express their own unique voice. In other words, it is my duty to both ignite and fuel the fire that is their passion for music.

Just like the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet, the pedagogical method of my teaching is based on regular and balanced attention to the core elements of fundamentals and performance and musical understanding. Lessons and lectures feature combinations of traditional music theory and are enhanced through the use of computer and recording technologies. Additionally, etudes and materials are determined prescriptively much in the same way a doctor offers medicine to address particular problems.

My goal is to encourage the student not simply to re-create traditional music models, but also to think critically and harness their own powers of imagination. Creativity through composition and improvisation gives each student their own voice and fosters it in a supportive and non-intimidating way. Author Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, notes how we as a society are moving from the information age to the conceptual age, where success is defined and achieved by ingenuity and creative thinking. Helping students think creatively in and across the many arms of music helps them uniquely define success and offers strategies to achieve those goals, both in music and beyond.

The complete musician is someone who explores, embraces, and combines the many facets of music. These may include such areas as music performance, history, theory, composition, improvisation, technology, entrepreneurship, and many others. Each one of these areas of music strengthens the others, and makes the student both more knowledgeable and more marketable. It has been my personal goal to embrace this interdisciplinary approach to both enrich my own musical experience as well as provide an example for my students.

Finally, it is my job to make my students into their own teachers so that they become progressively more independent of me. The best tool a student can have is the power of self-analysis and self-critique. Students are given the tools to not just explain how they hear something, but why and how to improve it. The wonderful thing about music is that the answer for why music 'works' can be different for each individual. In making the student his/her own teacher, we as teachers are not only enabling them to have efficient and effective study, continuing learning beyond the classroom time, but most importantly are giving them the tools of empowerment and continued ownership in learning and music in general.