The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development by Barbara Kreader Skalinder

By inverting two words—teaching and musicBarbara Kreader Skalinder changes what could have been a fairly mundane title to one that intrigues and gives us pause. But it is her subtitle, Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development, that grabs you and won't let you go.

Kreader Skalinder begins by sharing an astute observation about Andrew Lewis, a choirmaster in her hometown of Evanston, IL. His giftedness stems from "his ability to attune to the remarkably varied personalities and talents of the young choristers, and to create a safe environment that allows them to learn and participate at their own pace while at the same time immersing themselves in high level music-making." We are thus introduced to the crucial role perception plays in our profession.

The essay-style format transports us to the author's studio at lesson time, making it easy to recall our own similar teaching experiences. Throughout the book, the reader senses this teacher's willingness to listen, respect, adapt, and learn—yes, learn—from every student. Her research in how students learn supplements her many years of interaction with a variety of personalities and situations.

Kreader Skalinder adjusts to the times, but doesn't lose sight of the goal. Finding new ways to connect with a generation immersed in a digital world is not easy, but it has become essential to teaching students who learn through forms of media we could not have imagined just a few years ago.

The reality that each person learns in a unique manner is due to many factors. These issues are addressed in a way that never gets repetitive or dull. Growth may emerge if we pay attention and listen to our intuitive sides.

This book is more than a collection of pedagogy tips: it is a philosophy of teaching and an examination of our perception of our role as teachers. It is not difficult to see why it has taken years of teaching to pen this tome. Like a good spaghetti sauce, it has been simmering for a long time before coming to the table.

Kreader Skalinder's wisdom can be summed up in this illuminating quotation from the book: "We have a real, human child in front of us, and we are real, human teachers.If we trust our shared passion for music and quiet our fear of necessary struggle, we can relieve the pressure on both of us, stop vacillating between demanding and understanding, and create a growing space for the child's musical development to unfold naturally."

Isn't that what it's all about? (Hal Leonard, 146 pages. $19.99)

—Susan See 

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