Thursday, April 30, 2015

Statement of Teaching

by Xenia Sandstrom-McGuire
-We live in a global community, it is our duty to reach out and understand one another.-

In Today's work environment which encourages employees to think "outside the box," many institutions of higher learning have done their students a disservice by abandoning the core value of a Liberal Arts education. For these schools, the meaning of College has come to signify specific training in a particular field which had until the recent decades had been more appropriately developed through apprenticeship and on the job training.. As a result, their almuni/ae enter the work force with an incomplete education ill-equipped with the intellectual curiosity required for the sciences, ill-suited for the innovative entrepreneurial spirit of business and ill-prepared to adapt to the diversity of an ever changing global society.

The Liberal Arts degree is still respected as meaning: the ready ability to draw upon a broad variety of disciplines, to know how to learn independently, to apply knowledge, to critically analyze problems, and understand how to work with individuals and groups of diverse cultures and worldview.

In teaching Music as one of the traditional Seven Liberal Arts, I help students overcome the peril of "functional fixedness" through active and peer learning strategies. Rather than focusing solely on the memorization of facts and terms, my students (whether in class, ensemble or private study) use their senses to experience music--applying those terms to their subjective tastes as well as objective critical analysis in order to arrive at a well-considered conclusion. Students also develop the necessary skill of collaboration by discussing their diversity of perspectives and providing mature constructive feedback. In music improvisation, I expose students to diverse modes of improv traditions as practiced by many cultures around the world and encourage them through exercises (and an attitude of fearlessness) to experiment based upon what they have learned.

As an electric bassist, my primary concern is ensuring that students learn a sound ergonomic technique which reduces risk of injury. For this I have developed a method focused on the unique requirements of the electric bass with exercises designed to facilitate fingering while maintaining good posture. Rather than launching into "flashy technical riffs" my students learn early on the traditional musical leadership role of the bass -- it provides the foundation of Harmony, Beat and Rhythm--it is the singular focal point upon which all musicians rely. In this sense the bassist is the conductor who is always aware of the music and will assert direction when things go awry.

1 comment:

  1. In the introduction of his final book, Carl Sagan remarked on this educational theme, "At the University of Chicago I also was lucky enough to go
    through a general education programme devised by Robert M.
    Hutchins, where science was presented as an integral part of the
    gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge. It was considered
    unthinkable for an aspiring physicist not to know Plato, Aristotle,
    Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski and Freud - among
    many others. In an introductory science class, Ptolemy's view that
    the Sun revolved around the Earth was presented so compellingly
    that some students found themselves re-evaluating their commitment
    to Copernicus. The status of the teachers in the Hutchins
    curriculum had almost nothing to do with their research; perversely
    - unlike the American university standard of today -
    teachers were valued for their teaching, their ability to inform and
    inspire the next generation.
    In this heady atmosphere, I was able to fill in some of the many
    gaps in my education. Much that had been deeply mysterious, and
    not just in science, became clearer. I also witnessed at first hand
    the joy felt by those whose privilege it is to uncover a little about
    how the Universe works." - Carl Sagan - "Demon Haunted World" 1996…/sh…/17349.The_Demon_Haunted_World