I have been teaching conservatory level saxophone level now for about 6 years. About once every so many years I write down my current vision on teaching and especially, learning to play the saxophone.
I have had some experience with master students in the last three years. This is what I worked on with them.
When they the students came to me, they knew very well how they played, what they had to learn and they had ears. They did not need me to tell them how to play, but rather to find their own way with the technique they already possessed. It can be relatively easy to tell someone how to play, but the challenge for me was to help my students find their own way.
Of course this is not black and white. I did have to 'correct' them every now and then. And share my own views on a certain passage or 'correct' their technique. Intonation, finger technique are quite absolute for me…
In the first couple of months I like them work on technique, technique and technique. I want them to really dive into the saxophone, like there's nothing else. As a master student this is your last chance to do so. After the master studies, they will start teaching, gigging, start a family, etcetera. Which is all great of course. But studying for hours and hours will become harder. This is their last chance to perfect their basis.
In the mean time we will work on repertoire, and if the technique is already very good, there's no need to focus on technique. But in my experience, also remembering my own studies, it is a good idea to work on etudes, long tones and scales. And do them in the lesson, with me, and work out the last flaws that might be in the way.
The focus on technique lasts for a couple of months, then we continue with etudes and scales, etc, but the focus becomes repertoire, and more general artisticity. I found that my students usually have a hard time realizing that it is them who should do the work and make the decisions. I can tell them what works (for me…), but they should do the work. I find it very important that my students know how to take their own decisions after they leave school and trust their choices.
Which is hard. I do realize that students are looking for my opinion. And when it concerns intonation, rhythm, I can help them clearly, but when it comes to interpretation, or even choosing repertoire, I think it really important that they find out what it is to look for possibilities, and, more importantly, also make mistakes!
In all cases, I felt my masters students developed their own artisticity, their own opinion, and went on their journey. A journey that will last the rest of their lives. It is my mission to put them on the train.