S H E R R Y S Y L A R
My Teaching Philosophy
Teaching in the age of Covid has caused a momentous change in our methodology. First, for the student we must answer the question “why should I aspire to become a musician?”. Why spend years and thousands of hours of practice to become a professional musician when there are no guarantees a job will be waiting at the end? There is no easy answer. Though, if music is your calling you must pursue a career. When I was setting out on my journey, I can see that I was shortsighted but very lucky! I had my head down and thought of nothing else for 10 years. I didn’t have a ‘back-up’ plan, just a dream. Today my advice is always have a plan B but keep practicing like a fiend! Add skills that will enable you to make a living while you are working toward that dream. No one goes into classical music to get rich. If that’s your goal you are in the wrong business.
We all can’t win the perfect job. Let’s face it, only about 5% of all musicians will be able to financially sustain themselves throughout their lives with music alone. But the word “sustain” is my focus. If music is your calling, then your efforts toward that art will sustain your soul. Remember, we are blessed to have this talent and we are called upon to share it with others. Our world needs the nourishment that music can provide.
The second question is how do I, Sherry Sylar, teach effectively in a remote environ? My experience teaching chamber music at the beginning of this pandemic will forever affect my teaching. I had to reinvent my skills to include virtual assignments, to challenge students with discussions and performances online, to do something other than ‘coach’ ensemble, intonation and balance. Teaching remotely is more intensive than teaching face-to-face. It is my responsibility to ensure that students are getting a well-rounded education about the oboe. In addition to the usual assignments of scales, etudes, solo repertoire, orchestral repertoire and reed-making, I will be enjoining my students to study other schools of oboe performance, to research reed skills and to use the rich resources of the internet. I will be encouraging individuality rather than plagiarism (which is what I think happens when a student over-listens to a certain recording.) I want the student to be proactive and imaginative in their thoughts about the future. How can I draw a larger audience for my music? What can make me ‘stand out’?
Too often we focus on technical skills only. I want the student to learn how to speak to the heart of the listener. This can only come when we love what we do and approach our craft with a generous spirit. Remember our audience, for they are why we survive.
Finally, I will strive to encourage self confidence. My teaching style is not to say constantly what is wrong but rather to take what is right and add!
I have not stopped practicing. I still work several hours a day to keep up my skills. It’s not a chore! It’s actually my release valve on the stresses of life these days. It is my salvation. I hope I will inspire others to do the same.