Classically & Contemporary Trained Musician, Private Educator, and Coffee Connesuier
My name is Shannon, and I’m your friendly, neighborhood private music teacher and coffee enthusiast. I'm a private music educator based in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
I’m a Midwest girl at my core, born and raised just a hop, skip, and jump away in Northwest Wisconsin! When I’m not working, you can usually find me reading in a cozy corner, enjoying the beautiful outdoors, or browsing a local yarn shop.
I am a classically trained flutist, and hold a BA in Music. I spent half my collegiate musical career studying flute performance, and the other half as a contemporary worship leader. I have over 20 years of experience performing with orchestras, wind ensembles, chamber groups, and flute choirs. You can currently see me performing with the Bethel Philharmonic Orchestra, as their piccoloist. Before leaving Denver, I directed the Rocky Mountain Flute Choir, as well as served as principle flutist for the Castle Rock Orchestra. I have also been trained in piano, voice, and guitar, and regularly play/sing with church worship bands.
Raise your hand if you took private music lessons as a child! If your hand is in the air, tell me: what did your lessons look like?
Wait, wait - may I take a guess? You sat down at the piano (or took out your instrument, or stood next to the keyboard for your voice lesson, etc.), and the teacher asked you how practicing went this week. He/she may have asked to see your practice chart, or how many days this week you practiced your XX number of minutes.
Then, you played your homework from last week for the teacher, and (if you hadn't practiced much) received some instructions on how to improve... or maybe you were awarded that coveted check mark on the page, meaning you could move on to the next exercise!
There may have been a few minutes of music theory that you squirmed through, and then you were assigned new music to go home and practice, repeating the cycle for next week's lesson.
Did I describe it correctly? I didn't have to be at your childhood lessons to know what they looked like, because we've been teaching music in the same way for decades.
I'm a classically-trained musician and while I have enormous amounts of respect for our musical traditions, I believe we can mix things up and improve our kids' private lesson experience these days.
The problem with our dated approach to private music education is that our students aren’t personally connected to what they’re learning, and which leads to boredom and lack of interest. Then in turn, because they’re not self-motivated to practice, we use external ways to motivate them…which usually involve negative emotions like guilt and fear.
For example, let’s say we didn’t practice for our lesson this week. That likely means our teacher is going to scold us, and we’ll still have to play the piece we didn’t practice, making us feel like a failure and terrible musician. Knowing this, how can we want — much less, be excited— to go to our lesson?
Rather than subscribing to this "one-size-fits-all" approach, I prefer to take time to learn about what excites each of my students and tailor our lessons to what they're interested in.
With so many choices for after-school activities these days, kids are pulled in 100 directions at once. If we manage to get them to choose music over the 90 other things they could do instead, we need to honor their choice by making lessons a positive and engaging time of learning. If they dread walking into their lesson each week, I guarantee they'll quit soon after, leaving parents frustrated at the investment with no meaningful outcome. And later, that same child will grow up and become an adult who wishes wistfully that they had stuck with their lessons longer as a child.
My goal as a teacher is to encourage a passion for music in my students, while teaching a solid foundation of skills and concepts. I want our time together to be a safe space that doesn’t become a cause for anxiety or boredom.
In pursuit of this goal, I don't scold or punish my students if they don't practice. In fact, we don't keep track at all (unless they choose to themselves). Of course, I'm always honest with them, reminding them that the more they practice on their own, the faster we'll advance through the material. But that choice is up to them. If they don't practice at all one week, we might skip the workbook all together (GASP!) and work on something entirely different.
I also consistently incorporate new elements in our lessons, such as technology or games, as well as frequently changing up the structure of lessons entirely. Instead of the lesson described above, my students may walk in to a history lesson about the composer of their latest piece, or we may have another student joining their lesson this week to practice duets.
The bottom line is: is you're looking for a strict music teacher who will force students to improve quickly and prepare them for serious musical study later in life, then I'm probably not your gal. But if you are looking for a fun and rewarding extra-curricular activity (that benefits you in every-day life!) and a teacher who provides a relaxed atmosphere of fun and learning, then I might just be your perfect fit!