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Meet Marsha
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MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
Of primary importance from my days playing with the SFSO, I learned there isn't just one way to reach greatness. Week after week, superstars played great music in their own unique ways. In my teaching I work at helping my students develop a solid foundation of techniques, musical understanding, and music appreciation. There are an infinite number of roads to follow, dictated by my students’ individual needs. It is one of my great teaching loves to sleuth out what motivates and excites a boy or girl (or an adult!) to succeed. I expend much effort in confirming my students’ gifts, encouraging and supporting their strengths. My students’ ages at this writing range from 5-65. Generally, I work one-on-one but sometimes teaching a parent and child together works fantastically. On rare occasion, close friends or a husband and wife want to share lessons. This can work too! I love to be open to new ideas in teaching.

GETTING A STUDENT STARTED
When I teach students for their first year of music lessons, it's crucial for me to help them become aware of the musical sounds they create, to develop their ear for music. This is the hardest work a teacher ever does! It requires massive patience, good spirits, a sense of exploration and fun.

Developing your ear or your child's is absolutely essential if you're going to enjoy making music throughout life. Parents can provide a rich home environment by playing CDs, tapes, and videos of great musicians as my mother did. Parents can also walk-the-talk by learning to play an instrument themselves. I promise you that your kids will love for you to try to make music with them! My mom (on piano) and dad (he loved clarinet) never became very good at playing music, but I loved to hear them try!

WHAT WE USE AT LESSONS
I believe that variety is important, so I encourage my students to play from a number of music books. On strings, beginners start out with a book of popular Suzuki pieces that they learn with the help of a CD and with a technique builder, also with a CD. In the early going I teach my students pieces without the sheet music but concurrently help them to learn to read music. On piano, I help my students to become comfortable with the keyboard, learning simple tunes, and reading first notes from their music books. We learn pieces, theory, and even write a few original tunes in the first few months. What an exciting moment the first time they play a piece using both hands and reading both clefs!

For me, the most rewarding time is when a student’s abilities allows us to play duets (and trios with a
participating parent). It's like a miracle to see the smiles of joy after such accomplishment!

A NATURAL APPROACH
It's important to learn music in a way that makes it all seem totally natural. I blend theory and technique study into our regular lesson time as we practice our fun pieces. My students quickly learn to recognize all the signs, notes, and terms in their music as I point things out and ask them questions. I encourage students to take a new piece of music and examine it closely. They learn to recognize a lot about it before they play their first note! The clef(s), key signature, time signature, tempo indication(s), dynamics, phrasing, accidentals, repeat signs, what looks easy and what looks hard. A student is halfway home to learning a piece before they play the first note.

I help my students develop good practice habits, to practice slowly at first. Then I encourage them to let loose with their energies and emotions. Music making isn't just about making beautiful sounds; it's also about expressing deep feelings. So we develop our technical skills to the highest levels as a vehicle to express every nuance of our emotions.

 
 

During lessons, my students play for me a lot. And I respond. First I praise and praise and praise. "You did this great, and this was really good, and this really moved me! Well, now over here we had a little problem, right?" My students trust me because I'm always honest about what isn't at a top level. But never do the problems become as important as the SUCCESS. One measure of success is my students’ performances on recitals.

   


THE RECITALS
We do 2 recitals a year at my house to standing-room-only crowds. My students prepare for a recital for the preceding 6 weeks at their lessons. We practice everything: I applaud, they bow, they recite their speech, and they play their piece through. As the weeks pass, my job becomes less of critique and more of encouraging. Students tend to be too hard on themselves! I keep them focused on success and the beauty of their playing. Oh, how proud their parents and I am of them when they play on the recital and do great! It's rare for one of my students to not perform at or above their level in performance.

There are also other performing opportunities for my students in the Santa Rosa area including competitions and community musical outreach concerts. I encourage my students to perform and compete as often as they can, reminding them that winning is secondary, that the goal is always to play well, to feel good about yourself, to work hard and do your personal best.

 
                                       
       

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