Teaching Philosophy

Sarah’s teaching philosophy is rooted in four main building blocks.

Habits

Forming a habit of regular practice is the most valuable skill needed to learn an instrument

Fundamentals

Great playing is built on solid fundamentals including technique, sound, posture, breathing and articulation.

Balance

Learning music is a practice in finding balance between technical mastery and creative freedom.

Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is necessary for success. Students must desire to learn just as the teacher has a desire to teach.

Sarah MacDonald Flute Teacher Portrait

“Growing up, I studied the flute and the piano from a very young age. Back in those days lessons were all about counting the minutes of home practice while working through various method books and RCM grades. Even though I ended up becoming a professional musician (which most will not!) I found this method to be difficult and often boring. I believe music pedagogy needs a fresh perspective and that is the aim of my philosophy”.

– Sarah MacDonald

Habits

Learn to Form a Habit of Regular Practice

Habit formation is an invaluable skill that transcends lessons to all aspects of life. It is important to realize that forming a habit of regular practice is the most valuable skill needed to learn an instrument. There is no required amount of home practice time. Minutes of practice alone do not equal improvement. It is MUCH more important to learn to practice with clear intentions and form a habit of regular practice than prioritize a fixed amount of time. From beginners to advanced students, learning to practice regularly and use your time wisely is the ultimate goal.

Fundamentals

Build Solid Fundamentals

Fundamentals on the flute are probably one of the most neglected and misunderstood aspects of flute pedagogy. High level performers often do not teach many beginners and unfortunately many method books do not adequately explain the technicalities of tone production, posture, breathing, articulation and more. In my years teaching of many undergraduate flutists I have come to realize that the issue of weak fundamentals in beginners significantly impacts players well into their advanced studies. Setting up beginners well can increase the speed of improvement by YEARS at the intermediate and advanced levels.

Balance

Find Balance Between Technique and Creativity

It is important that the focus of lessons is expertly structured to place emphasis on the skills that need building to create a balanced player. The more technical ability you have, the easier it is to play the music the way the composer intended and as you imagine it. Making creative decisions rooted in understanding technique, phrasing, context and style is at the heart of great artistry. Spending time on both aspects consistently will produce both more musical and cleaner playing.

Motivation

Students Must Want to Learn!

Intrinsic motivation should be the driving force behind learning to play the flute. Neither teacher or student will find value in a lesson that is not wanted. Helping students understand their goals and take responsibility for their part in achieving them is a big part of lessons. It is expected that each student will have their own individual set of goals and motivational factors and I will design a lesson plan suited to each student that meets their needs. Together, we will make it happen, adjusting as necessary.

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