It is undeniable that post-secondary music education in the United States finds itself today at a crossroads. While the number of full-time jobs in music performance is steadily shrinking (consider that a typical bassoon has two to four times as many keys as there are living-wage bassoon openings across the country in a given year), institutions of higher learning continue to produce ever-growing numbers of qualified graduates.
What all of this means is that in order to find one’s place in this increasingly challenging job marketplace, young musicians of today must look for ways other than simply believing in the success of the next orchestral audition if they are to stand a chance at realizing their professional goals. The sooner that an aspiring musician comes to terms with this however unpleasant reality, the better equipped he or she will be to face the inevitable for most challenges of life after graduation.
Beyond the necessary shift in mentality that needs to occur on the part of music students and their parents as well as private teachers, universities too ought to recognize this new reality and look for a modern-day approach to music education. The most important step in that direction would be an across-the-board tweaking--if not an outright overhaul--of the outdated music performance curricula in order to better reflect the actual conditions that exist outside of our respective institutional walls. Thankfully, there are some positive signs occurring on this front. Thus far, the changes are coming from only a small, but slowly growing number of music programs which recently began to look beyond last-century’s go-to model of a symphony job as the (only) desired destination for their graduates. If this new approach were to gain real traction, the institutions that find themselves at the forefront of this shift might well be poised to become the new leaders in tomorrow’s music performance educational landscape.
Following my successful management of SMU's chamber music program, in the Spring semester of 2018 I launched what had proven to be an innovative and highly-praised new course on the secrets of wind playing. More than simply a mock audition class, the course included a robust lecture component which, in addition to covering standard aspects of wind performance, also addressed topics such as: musical talent and musical intelligence, performance anxiety, entrepreneurial career planning, and more. Due to popular demand, I also established a mechanism whereby I taught individual lessons to advanced students from virtually all of the Meadows School of the Arts woodwind studios, which focused primarily on topics such as phrasing and interpretation, early music ornamentation, orchestral audition/competition preparation, and extended techniques.
My teaching aims to reflect as much as possible the current realities of the music profession in order to prepare students for attainable and satisfying careers in music performance. To this end, after a decade and a half as an orchestral musician and subsequent tenure in academia, I now devote the bulk of my time to conducting research in the pedagogical arena, with a secondary research focus in the field of bassoon reed-making.