Shadowing A Teacher

Recently my tutor inspired us to be more observant and also suggested that teaching is a great way to eat in our profession, my post today shall be on me shadowing a tutor on his lesson with Level 2 Music Performance (Foundation) at Kidderminster College. This is something I wanted to do for a while seen as though I like to think somewhere down the line I’ll be doing the same, well on with his lesson and what experience it has given me.


Friday afternoon, I’m very drained from the morning of continuos jazz rehearsal with my wonderful singer but as I pack I run into my improvisation buddy Carl Browne who cracks on about his experience of teaching drums and various bits of piano and vocal to the Level 2 guys who are pretty fresh at music. Russ Tolley, who is a Goldsmiths graduate and pretty monster bass player is teaching them in about 20 minutes so I decide to tag along, after getting permission of course, so I head in there and what I see are a bunch of very enthusiastic students who are still smiling because they haven’t entered the world of jazz. Russ stays central and confident mixing his direct instructions with light humour which I feel the students respond to with great concentration, a very good display of what a teacher should be like and I’ll take from this for future reference, I commented after about this with which he replied “Ahh, that’s years of acting.” so I feel this can be accomplished due to the fact that I studied acting and am pretty confident, Russ starts talking about what they will be doing this lesson in which all the students are pretty excited about although one vocalist seems nervous (that’s the one vocalist I shadowed). 


Before I carry on I’d like to mention that I had started at level 2 due to my theory knowledge and playing not being level 3 “Material,” although it can be criticised and even ridiculed there is talent and potential everywhere. I enjoyed my time and learnt a lot, I feel that to get to the milestone I have journeyed to I’ve overcome obstacles (but who hasn’t right?) and smile to myself that I can witness students with the same mentality I had back then for the constant need to improve and be top of the class. We’re always improving by it’s better when we do it together! just thought I’d add my experience as a level 2 so you can get a feel for my way of blogging and that I constantly hand out nuggets of information.


So back on with the shadowing, the lecturer mentions film quotes and that the objective is for the students to write songs based on whatever film quotes they think of, a brilliant stimulus for songwriting in which the class also start to talk between themselves with the reaction of “Yes!,” and “Brilliant,” my exact reaction as I look forward to hearing what they’ve chosen and what they manipulate the quote into. As he sets tasks for the students who have grasped recent songs into physical products he sets them to practice so he can work on the earlier student who was nervous about singing, giving the students that independence tells me that he has a certain amount of trust for his class and that it’s returned due to me observing everyone, they have the sense of individuality so their work will be so much more rewarding to them. So I leave the main class and shadow on the private vocal lesson, I ask the girl if it’s okay first just so I’m not intruding, I can see Russ approved of this as it shows I respect peoples privacy and self esteem (I really hope I do).


In this lesson he’s already teaching her small things such as:

– Stand straight for comfortable pushing of the diaphragm

– Meaning for music terminology (Piano = quiet , Forte = Loud)

– Tips on vocals


I could see her understanding improving and she already knows a lot more than I did when I was at that level, Russ still keeping his tone direct but light as they start to sing together, with every practice she’s getting the notes more and more clear and perfect, this tells me that private tutoring is very rewarding for the student as they seem to understand the lesson much more clearly and can focus a lot more in reference to when there’s a class. As he leaves my fellow pupil and friend starts to teach her and she’s doesn’t even realise she’s playing harmonies and creating her own style of the lyrics, this is a brilliant sight from a third party perspective as I’m constantly smiling to myself in the corner and writing a lot of notes on how so much little time with constant practice can cause a large improvement instantly.


As I had to go I thanked everyone and was happy with the fact that I can take some of the lecturers teaching with me as I start my own journey of teaching and I’m glad that I’m understanding how my small pieces of advice can cause someones potential to become great. If your reading then why don’t you try observing a class, teaching someone or even teach yourself, the college is building something great and if we learn from this we can too.


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