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Shannon Lowe’s Tips for Bassoon Students and Teachers


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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

What advice do you have for students?

When I was going through school, my husband (who is also a musician) always told me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It’s a long game. You wouldn’t be in school if you were already perfect at your instrument. School is a place where students can be in a lab setting where they can experiment and make mistakes without the high stakes of losing a job or reputation. I think that recognizing that it’s okay to be a student and savour that time. Don’t be too hard on yourself — you’re a student in that stage. Play as much as possible. Be in chamber music ensembles as soon as you can.

I credit my love and success in music from being in a chamber music ensemble at a young age. I was in a woodwind quintet in middle school. I was fortunate as a high schooler that there were retired professional musicians from New York in my community. My bassoon teacher did not have the time to play in their group and said I should play with them. Multiple times per month, I would rehearse with these retired professional musicians in this woodwind quintet. I learned so much from them as a young musician. Participating in chamber music ensembles and playing as much as possible are big benefits for students.

Also, listen to recordings of great musicians; it doesn’t need to be just classical musicians. There are some excellent pop musicians as well. For example, I love Freddie Mercury. It doesn’t need to be just bassoon specific; listen to other great artists. And then try to go to as many live concerts as possible.

What advice do you have for teachers?

If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try new things, even in lessons. Fortunately, this was something that I learned from a young age in college when I was teaching bassoon lessons. There weren’t high stakes because I was working with middle schoolers. They were pretty open to being creative, flexible, and trying suggestions from me on the spot. That can work with more advanced students as well.

If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say, “We will figure it out. I will come back to you on this with a plan to work it out.” Another thing is, admit when you make a mistake. I feel like this is essential even as a teacher. Students may come back a week later, and what you suggested hasn’t made it worse, but it isn’t progressing as it should have. Acknowledge to the student your suggestion didn’t work and then try another approach.

Believe in yourself and that you’re capable. Some of us suffer at some point (or multiple points), thinking, “Am I an imposter? Is this for real? Can I do this?” You can, and you are capable even if it’s something in which you don’t have a depth of knowledge at that point. You can improve on that knowledge and research. You wouldn’t be in the place you are if you weren’t meant to be a teacher. Also, try not to take yourself too seriously. It’s taken me some time to learn that. I’ve been teaching for over a decade in higher education. In the beginning, I took my rules and everything so seriously because I was a serious student myself, but it’s essential to be flexible not only for you but for your students. You need to be serious at times but recognize that it can hold you back in growth.

Don’t stop learning. Just because you’re a teacher doesn’t mean that you can’t stop being a student. We improve as teachers when we continue that quest for knowledge and invite others to share and learn.


Full Interview: “We Improve as Teachers When We Continue That Quest for Knowledge and Invite Others to Share and Learn”

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