Graham is a passionate music educator who enjoys working with young musicians and adults alike. He promotes a highly flexible teaching style that prioritizes the student's interests and draws on broad resources. He believes each student is unique and best served with a personalized approach. Please use the contact page to get in touch and describe the service you are looking for. It is important to have a conversation before beginning lessons to ensure a match. Rates are reflective of credentials and experience. However, private music lessons should be accessible to everyone, and with that in mind, a sliding scale and customizable lesson times based on financial circumstances can be arranged.
- Double Bass
- Electric Bass
GENERAL TEACHING PHILOSOPHIES
It is of utmost importance that the student remains enthusiastic and interested throughout the learning process. The ultimate goal is to have students progress while enjoying their lessons and looking forward to new challenges and connections on different levels each week. The preferences, interests, and learning style of each student differs greatly and it is the responsibility of the instructor to identify these differences and tailor each lesson in a way that maximizes student progress and enjoyment.
Double Bass: the establishment of a strong technical foundation is imperative. Proper left hand and bow technique must be achieved through various exercises before moving on to studies and longer pieces. For the study of jazz, it is recommended that all students learn to use a bow, but this technique is secondary to aspects such as learning to read chord symbols and becoming familiar with certain repertoire.
Electric Bass: as with the double bass, the establishment of a strong technical foundation is imperative. However, it is much more likely that a student who is interested in the electric bass has the desire to prioritize learning specific pieces, and technique can be solidified through these pieces in tandem with some exercises.
Theory: rudiments, harmony, counterpoint, analysis, post-tonal theory, and jazz theory all lend themselves to a hybrid approach where the instructor provides a nurturing environment which includes the participation of students in exercises. A complete approach which ties together other important aspects of music education, such as keyboard harmony and ear training, is highly recommended.
Composition: It is important to focus on a foundation of general principles, and to avoid pure value judgements in the evaluation of student compositions. Encouraging individual aesthetics is critical, and evaluation based on a comprehensive approach to composition which incorporates general principles opposed to a specific aesthetic will assist in promoting this ideal.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT (UNIVERSITY)
I have been incredibly fortunate to accumulate a broad array of teaching experience in a variety of settings, from undergraduate teaching at York University to itinerant and private instruction through Branksome Hall and instruction in my private studio and online. While I have certainly learned much by observing and working with professors from my own student days, like most lessons in life, it is the ones that you learn from the crucible of your own experiences that shape your career with the most significance. In the latter respect, I owe much to my students for helping me learn and grow as a teacher, for allowing me to continually fine tune my approach, for assisting in the discovery of tactics that are most effective, and finally, for shaping a broader teaching philosophy.
The basic components of exceptional teaching include clear and succinct presentation of material; compassion toward and acceptance of different learning styles; awareness and attentiveness regarding progress of individual students; and the desire to put as much work into preparing and delivering as is expected of students in learning. Pairing these basics with experiential learning has been central in both my university teaching and private teaching. Music as a discipline, lends itself to this style, as the retention of information is best achieved through immediate practice and reflection. Furthermore, the promotion of a complete approach which ties together all aspects of music education, including composition, theory and analysis, performance, keyboard harmony, ear training, history, etc., is imperative to the successful integration of concepts, and the obtainment of a multi-dimensional understanding of music. This approach has the added benefit of a built-in system that accommodates students’ different learning styles and unique needs. For example, some students may grasp certain harmonic concepts more easily by relating them to the keyboard or fingerboard, while others may absorb them through listening or writing. This also allows students to make a more personal connection to knowledge which undoubtedly leads to better retention and understanding of that knowledge.
Theory and composition are best taught using a hybrid system where the instructor provides a nurturing environment which includes the participation of students in exercises, class discussions, and other engaging activities. Student involvement in this fashion encourages continued alertness and lets the instructor assess individual levels of comprehension regarding specific materials. In turn, this assists in judging when to move on to the next concept. This responsiveness in pacing is vital, and helps ensure that, along with the development and maintenance of a strong foundation of rudimentary knowledge and basic concepts, more advanced ideas will be absorbed with a moderate amount of practice and application. With each new concept, it is important to emphasize how it relates to, or grows out of, the established foundation. While there are many fine introductory theory textbooks available, the best recent edition that is particularly good at this type of progressive presentation is L. Poundie Burstein and Joseph N. Straus’s Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony, 2nd Edition (2020). The focus on real musical examples, the comprehensive workbook, and the superb online pedagogy which includes videos and seamless exercises make this a truly inspiring resource. The ease of use and quick feedback are especially important features that speak to the media savviness of today’s undergraduate students and lets them know when they are on the right track.
Of course, a good textbook is simply a starting point and must be paired with a vibrant instructor who can connect with students on a personal level. Furthermore, in all courses, it is important to integrate an online learning management system to help facilitate deeper communication between the course director, teaching assistants, individual students, and groups of students. This technology further promotes the sharing of ideas and allows students to review course materials and any additional notes and supplementary resources posted by the instructor. Overall, this creates a more cohesive environment and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
In general, the presentation of each new idea should be accompanied by an actionable takeaway, something the student can implement immediately outside of class. Knowledge is power, but we need to supply more than just information; we also need to equip students with the skills they need to fully integrate that information within their musical environment. This includes stressing the importance of a routine that incorporates deliberate practice (concentrated focus) and the avoidance of multi-tasking (which inhibits focus). This promotes work efficiency and helps avoid wasted time and frustration for students. Cultivating the ability to practice exercises alone is a necessary step toward developing fluency. Moreover, encouraging a complete approach, as described above, assists in solidifying each new idea. Listening to real examples that highlight new material is an important step, as is playing through exercises on the keyboard and encouraging students to sing and play exercises on their instruments.
Nurturing creativity is the main goal when teaching composition, even when discussing basics, examining historic examples, or emulating other composers. It is also important to focus on a foundation of general principles, and to avoid pure value judgements in the evaluation of student compositions. Encouraging individual aesthetics is crucial, and evaluation based on an approach to composition that incorporates general principles opposed to a specific aesthetic will assist in bolstering this ideal. Discussions centred around meaning and intention within composition add a vital layer of focused reflection which further develops the young composer’s skills and identity. Imposing group learning situations is especially valuable for introductory composition classes, as students can share experiences and knowledge of different instruments and personal experiences, including playing techniques and capabilities. One of the best things developing composers can do is write for musicians they know who are receptive to having ideas bounced off them. This further opens lines of communication. If something is not working or is successful, the musicians will be less likely to withhold that information. The composer will quickly learn the capabilities of the performers and their instruments.
An effective education system operates on multiple levels, between individuals and within different communities. All instructors need to be familiar with accommodations that are available for students with special needs such as learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or emotional and behavioral difficulties; and it is essential that the instructor is approachable and available outside of class through office hours, email, and other online platforms like a learning management system. This additional awareness and communication will assist in gauging the progress of individuals, and it reinforces the trust between instructor and student, helps build a sense of community, and reminds students that the instructor has the students’ best interests in mind. The events of 2020 and 2021 have driven home the fact that the performing arts are essential to our individual and collective well-being, and the importance of ensuring a sustainable future for the performing arts through equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is the responsibility of every educator to promote these values and effect positive change.