Music Teachers: in the key of continuous learning

by • September 9, 2017 • BC Musician News, BC Musicians, Front Page2572

For a musician to become fully realized, there are many stages of learning involved. Often it begins as a child showing interest in music, naturally gravitating towards rhythmic or melodic ideas. This tendency is further encouraged with group classes, music camps, school bands and private lessons. Taking musical studies at a university level shows true commitment and often results in a career in music.

Jodi Proznick is a Vancouver based freelance jazz bass player who leads The Jodi Proznick Quartet, co-leads Triology, and performs in The Oliver Gannon Quartet and with Katherine Penfold. She is a music professor at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Artistic Director of the Music Summer Jazz Workshop at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. Her classes include Popular Music History, Jazz History, Rudiments, Jazz Theory, Songwriting, Arranging, Improvisation and private bass lessons. She also works as a clinician and adjudicator for festivals and universities across Canada.   

“I invite the students to show up for their own life” she says, and claims that her job is not to teach, but to facilitate, guide and support the student. By showing clear boundaries and intentions, she challenges students to take full responsibility for their own journey while being enthusiastic about hers.

A key aspect to her approach is inviting skill to interplay with imagination. After introducing a concept, she gives space for students to play and experiment with the idea. Her core values are based on a publication from VYC conductor Carrie Tennant, which include but are not limited to; being yourself, equality, keeping your thoughts positive, staying embodied, providing a safe classroom space, cultivating talent (skill plus confidence), being present, combining the intellectual with the sensual, asking questions, leaning towards your fears and showing up for your life.

While she holds space for and empathizes with students who have fear and anxiety around making music, she treats them as the capable and brave musicians they are. The pillars of her teaching include: Relationship, Resilience, Reflection and Relevance. Jodi’s students inspire her and teach her a lot about the craft, giving her a chance to look deeply into the skill and knowledge she has accumulated. She enjoys processing and clarifying all kinds of creative ideas, investigating and problem solving alongside those learning.

“I see myself as a gardener. My job isn’t to decide what plant the student is but to see them for who they truly are and help to create conditions to help them grow into strong and healthy artists. I work to give the right information at the right time like a good gardener adds fertilizer, waters appropriately and makes sure that a plant gets just the right amount of sun they need.”

Teaching has taken priority of her time, so live performances are about creating art. Tours are usually kept short and not as much a part of her schedule these days with teaching and family life as a mom. She does however have plans this fall to tour her upcoming album release with The Jodi Proznick Quartet with vocalist Laila Biali.

Melody Diachun (pronounced DAY-shun) is a vocalist and an instructor and coordinator at the Contemporary Music and Technology Program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC. She teaches Songwriting, Business of Music, Ensemble and private vocal lessons. Most post secondary music programs come from a jazz or classical standpoint, Selkirk offers a one-of-a-kind program in Canada that focuses on contemporary style, founded on the Boston Berklee College of Music program.

In 1997, Melody quit her day job to join the Banff Springs Hotel house band, singing 7 nights a week. She worked there for 3 years and then moved to Vancouver, returning to Banff in the summer months. In 2012 she was offered the teaching job at Selkirk and moved from Vancouver to Nelson. For a town of 10 000, there is a lot going on with plenty of opportunities to perform. It can be hard to get out of the Kootenay region in the winter months, but there is a window between May and August when she can hit the road.

Her vocal teaching promotes transparent technique, musicianship and freedom of expression. Being a confident well-rounded musician allows one to flourish and communicate their ideas. Song writing is a craft that she believes is learned, and having a strong work ethic is key. There is room in the music industry for those who have talent that is buoyed with drive and discipline. Melody is careful to not claim her students’ success as her own and views teaching music as a form of apprenticeship.

One tip she shares is to record your private lessons and rehearsals. This allows you to hear your voice from a listener’s perspective instead of only hearing what’s inside our heads, which only gives you part of the sonic information. It may feel a certain way, but it may not sound how you intended it to come across and “tapes don’t lie”. She will often record her feedback by a voice recording instead of written feedback, which the students respond well to.

Teaching keeps her voice in shape and she is grateful that her voice has been reliable throughout her life. Her ideal practice routine consists of a thorough warm up followed by technique exercises and working on specific songs. She considers song-writing a separate practice and enjoys time flushing out different ideas waiting for her.

“Teaching energizes me in those moments in which I feel a strong sense of simpatico with a student or an entire class. When I can help students understand a concept and I see “the lights go on” around the room–that moment is exhilarating.” Witnessing the rehearsals move into a live performance is rewarding. Balancing her teaching with her personal musical aspirations is important. Having her own performances, recordings and tours on the horizon to look forward to keeps her sustained and nourished. She is currently working on an album that will be followed by a cross Canada tour.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *