Website of Musician Eric B. Chernov

Teaching Philosophy

            While my philosophy of teaching is rather complex, it can most easily be summarized by the following seven broad, interrelated topics: The Study of Music Must Encourage Musical Processes; Teach for Distance: Teach Via Principles and Examples, Not Via "Rules;" Avoid Issuing Fiats or Leaning on Rote Learning; Incorporate an Integration of Elements; Nurture Students by Encouraging Curiosity, Imagination, and Enthusiasm; Avoid Rigidity for Its Own Sake: The Teacher as Student; Engage All Students as Musicians, Future Audience Members, and Patrons

The Study of Music Must Encourage Musical Processes
            Too often students in ear training and theory courses are left wondering what the connection is between their coursework and the music they are studying. I work hard to help students understand this connection. In a relaxed, supportive atmosphere, students learn to keep tempi steady, to keep going if they make a mistake, to work with others in ensemble-like situations, etc. The relation to their instrumental or vocal work is both obvious and important.

Teach for Distance: Teach Via Principles and Examples, Not Via "Rules"
            Theory is, by its nature, a study of tendencies. Frequently, students are given ad-hoc lists of purported rules to follow in their exercises. It is pedagogically more fruitful—and musically more sound—not to teach these as independent rules, but as aspects of larger principles, thus placing them in their proper context and giving them their proper weight. Such a pedagogical approach has the added benefits of being more versatile and more readily comprehensible. Further, the careful study of the literature to illustrate concepts is important. This can be done at all stages of study and examples must be chosen carefully to render clear the concept(s) discussed.
            While it is important to control the flow of information to students carefully so that they do not become confused or get ahead of themselves, it is important not to impart principles that will be contradicted or refuted by later information–what I call "teaching for distance." The knowledge should build one thing upon another.

Avoid Issuing Fiats or Leaning on Rote Learning
            Students generally learn best when they understand the reasons behind the principles they are learning, and they should learn to question things judiciously. One must encourage students to come to conclusions about music­, conclusions rooted in the musical investigations that form the substance of musical coursework. Even lessons which must be committed completely to memory, even if ultimately by rote, should not be presented just as a command ("learn these"), but rather as lessons which integrate their meaning into a larger picture.

Incorporate an Integration of Elements
            The study of music involves widespread cross-pollination of creative ideas, technical and historical information, stylistic insights, etc. For example, through such simple means as asking a student in an ear training class that has been assigned a melody in E-flat Major which Beethoven Symphony is in that key, the students start to see the larger picture in their studies and to understand how things relate to each other. They become aware that they are required to know works that do not involve their instrument. And the idea that theory or sight singing or dictation is somehow separate from their personal musical experience becomes an increasingly absurd idea to them.

Nurture Students by Encouraging Curiosity, Imagination, and Enthusiasm
            To bring out the best in students, one must create an atmosphere where students' enthusiasm is encouraged and lauded. The skillful use of one's curiosity and imagination is not merely a good learning practice; it is a musical practice. Students' performances and analyses should be governed by the controlled use of ear training, knowledge, imagination, and conceptualization; musical teaching should be geared towards increasing students' skills in these areas.

Avoid Rigidity for Its Own Sake: The Teacher as Student
            Malleability in pedagogical approaches is essential. By this I do not mean that one should not have clear ideas or techniques to draw upon, or that one should not have firm beliefs, as should be obvious from the foregoing remarks. Rather, a teacher who cannot or will not continually look for new ways to explain things, for ways to clarify concepts, for ways to keep students engaged, is not executing the duties inherent in the position of a teacher.

Engage All Students as Musicians, Future Audience Members, and Patrons
            The job of a teacher is to foster students' understanding, love, and appreciation for music. While one would like to think that all students will be engaged as performers and scholars, it is important to maintain the enthusiasms of those who will be pursuing alternative career paths. As no one has clairvoyance in these matters, one must regard all students first as musicians, but also as future audience members and patrons. If we do not encourage those who have expressed interest in the arts, whom do we expect to support those arts?



Launch date: 21 November 2001.
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