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MUS654 Session 10: Interlinking Issues

Interlinking issues means that it’s time to think about the bigger picture and the delicate balance of the different components that come together to in effective teaching. All the aspects of what might be included or important to the longer-term plan of teaching – sound, expression, repertoire, the concept of scales and intonation – need to somehow come together to be interesting and engaging for the student. Achieving the cornerstones of communicating, understanding, and maintaining a desire to learn in lessons is a real challenge and involves thinking around the music, beyond a list of pieces to note-bash, moving from one page to another in whatever method book may be on the shelf. (Featured Image CC licensed )

Thinking about it…

There is no one answer for how to interlink all the components of teaching and learning, because there are so many variables, and even if the technical aspects of learning music could be pinned down to a fine science, individual students will always have something new that they bring to a situation. Psychologists and researchers have published methods exploring how to make it all work and there are volumes. Although this article dates from 1987, it is clear and has ideas that can transfer easily to music. Hopefully it will get you thinking.

Taks: Have a read of Strategies for Stimulating the Motivation to Learn by John Keller

Another reference that contextualises the outlook for teaching is Keith Swanwick’s book Teaching Music Musically. In Chapter 3 of the book we are reminded of the need for understanding and of some of the processes involved. Nearly all of the text appears in the link below: (to read more, search for other editions or visit your library)

Task: Read Chapter 3 Principles of Music Education from Teaching Music Musically

Planning and putting your teaching into practice does require thinking, understanding, anticipating, and reacting to the student. There should be a sense that any given piece is far more than just repertoire and can be the vehicle for any number of ways of developing aspects of technique or musicianship. I am a firm believer that there is always something to be learned from others, and this is true for beginners and for professionals.

Learning from the professionals

Interview 1:

Working with teenagers: with Frank Lestina

Frank Lestina worked in the school system for over 30 years, leading the orchestral programme first in a middle school and then for many years in a high school setting. He was not planning a curriculum for an individual learner, but had up to 70 learners to manage at once. Many of the issues he faced transfer directly to the individual context and where his insight is particularly valuable is in how he was able to engage and retain students. He drew in students from across a wide range of ability levels and worked to cater for each in a way that challenged and motivated them, so they could reach the next musical level. Frank stresses the most important thing for him is the how. His use of less conventional methods, like working off-copy and using flash-mob techniques mixed with a healthy dose of rigorous musical literature – from Mozart to Mahler, is bound to spark some ideas for how you can relate issues and also how to plan that balance of learning and fun.

Task: Watch and listen to the interview with Frank Lestina, music educator:

Here are a few recordings of Frank Lestina’s school orchestra students:

Here is the Vernon Hills High School Orchestra playing Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique in 2013 and performing Symphony No. 1 by Frank Ticheli (movement III). Profanation at the 63rd Midwest Clinic 2009.


Interview 2:

One-to-one teaching with Hans Jensen

In this interview, I speak with Professor Hans Jensen about his pedagogical methods and he speaks in depth about many different aspects of teaching and understanding.Students come to Hans Jensen from all over the world.


He is passionately committed to his teaching and has a unique approach to learning with each of his students. Glimpses of Hans Jensen’s teaching were shown in the video in Session 9, and for this session’s interview, Hans Jensen spoke with me in detail and contextualised his teaching methods within different teaching contexts and situations. The interview was recorded during his time teaching at The Meadowmount School of Music (a very high level summer study programme held in upstate New York). Our discussion begins with some context about the school, as I had also spoken to other faculty members, and about Hans’ background with teaching at Meadowmount. He quickly moves into how that intense learning environment benefits students, how he as a teacher approaches teaching both new and continuing students in different settings. He speaks about his approach to students’ technical issues and how he addresses these so learners can gain maximum benefit, and various strategies he uses to help facilitate learning: including thinking processes, understanding goals, and working with and supporting individuals so they can learn, and, as Hans says ‘help them do what they want to do’.                (Photo by Laura Ritchie)

Hans speaks of his own inspiration as a learner, from first hearing a cello and being taught by his father to learning with teachers at Juilliard, and how his own learning has shaped his teaching. He touches on singing in lessons, the biomechanics of the body, working with an accompanist.

There are many many elements within these 30 minutes that can be transferred to teaching situations across instruments and styles of music.

Task: Listen to the interview with Hans Jensen: 
















Photo CC licensed

How can you use it?

With every topic, every piece, remember that there are many spokes to the wheel – find the relationships and different ways to help the student think and understand. Work to embed time for both the physical and mental understanding that comes with learning.

Task: Blog it.

Choose one of the interviews or readings suggested above and write about it. Reflect on how the reading/interview relates to you as a performer and teacher. Are there things you agree with or things that you have strong opinions against? How can the ideas be used in practical settings within lessons?

Task: Make a Map

Create a mind map or a spider’s web that represents the different issues that you want to address, and see how they overlap. What techniques from Frank Lestina’s interview can you use to connect with and motivate your student? How can you borrow from Hans Jensen’s approach? With your web-maps, let them interlink. See if you can draw a path through the ideas. Then, draw another path. The way might be slightly different for different students, with more emphasis on one thing than another, but the connection should be secure upon arrival.

Try this with specific elements from your proposed year’s learning – with topics and with repertoire/titles of literature that you will use. See which approach helps you to make the connections and link issues. 

Pen and paper works fine, but here is an online tool you can use as well. 

Share your thoughts and your tasks! You can tweet links to your tasks and hashtag or you might want to post on  your own site. … everyone is welcome, whether you contribute once or every week.

(…was tempted to say something about the connection being in the middle, but will leave that to the snowflake pic below)

Photo CC licensed


2 thoughts on “MUS654 Session 10: Interlinking Issues”

  1. Pingback: Bloggin it for #CCourses -

  2. Very inspiring blog, wouldn’t expect anything else from such a talented musician. A great read and lovely music. What better way to spend your day. Thank you for sharing.

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