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Principles of teaching

In the world of instrumental and vocal teaching, most teachers approach their students with certain basic principles in mind. For me, one of those principles is that whether we’re dealing with individuals or with ensembles, there’s no separating technical goals from musical goals. I don’t believe, in other words, that it makes sense just to learn the notes first and then somehow to “plug in” the music later. 

Sure, there are certain fundamental techniques that all beginners have to master, but after that it’s only by having musical goals—goals of expressivity, vitality, and beauty—that we discover what we need to be able to do technically to reach those goals. And technical accomplishment by itself, after all, is of little interest: I usually get a laugh from my students when I stress that no audience member has ever left a concert quivering with excitement because a performance was… “correct!”

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.