University of New Mexico
As a teacher of horn I aim to inspire and instruct my students into an open-minded approach toward reaching their goals. The ways in which they will enter and inhabit today’s market is in constant flux. This is good news as their future is full of opportunity. Being creative entrepreneurial-minded performers who happen to play the horn is key.
Through a holistic approach to playing and teaching the horn, my students learn how to convey their musical stories to the audience in compelling ways. However, music does not only exist in a performance vacuum. Studying horn, like all the arts, can stimulate a deeper understanding of how students engage within the society in which they live. My role as a teacher is to help establish goals, maintain motivation and provide the skills needed to attain their dreams.
A vital skill of an applied music teacher is motivation. Students are often pulled into many directions and can easily loose the initial intensity of drive exhibited at the beginning of each semester. By finding what intrinsically motivates the students while using the extrinsic motivation of established goals I am able to keep students engaged throughout the semester. At Indiana University I have had the privilege of teaching non-horn majors. With these students it is necessary to remind them of why they play the horn. This shift of mindset to the purpose of lessons and performing is an effective motivator. The same principles apply when teaching music majors, finding the intrinsic motivators of each student also exhibits the importance of meeting each student where they are currently at in their musical journey.
I believe in a positive and energetic teaching style that augments the curriculum of the University by approaching playing horn in a holistic way. For example, I expect students to know the reasons behind their interpretive decisions. My students need to understand what role the piece plays in our society today and the society in which it was composed. Having a foundation of theory is also crucial to incorporate what they are learning in their other music classes to their career goals. Before each performance, my students introduce the piece to the audience to practice public speaking and engaging with the audience. In this introduction, students share scholarly information about the piece and one aspect of the piece the performer particularly enjoys. In lessons, I insist that each student learn how to play natural horn. Not only is it an effective practice method, but it informs the student on the mechanical and historic aspects of the instrument.
Central to establishing the student teacher relationship is the trust of achieving the defined goals. One way to measure that success is through an outside organization. For example, I had a student who auditioned for the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University but was not accepted. After studying with me for a year he was accepted and offered a performance scholarship! Apart from measuring success from an outside field, I like to use solo pieces as benchmarks to success. For example, a student might have goals of becoming more secure in the lower register. At the start of the semester I would present the Gliere Horn Concerto Opening and have them play it, which is a very low and challenging excerpt. After working on low range from several angles throughout the semester I would have them play through the opening of the concert again so they could objectively see the improvement over the entire semester. I hope that students end lessons with a better understanding of the horn and how to engage with our audiences today.
"Last semester I picked up my horn for the first time in almost two years. Though I was hesitant to play again, Mike was the perfect teacher to restore my technical skills as well as to renew my love of the instrument and music. His positive outlook, passion for the horn, and flexible teaching style inspired me to improve each week. Mike passed on his intellectual curiosity through the wealth of book, movie, and music recommendations that tied into the technical and musical concepts we covered in each lesson. Mike is dedicated to the horn and his students. I am leaving his studio more attuned to the musical world and significantly more confident in my abilities. " - Meredith McKay
"Mike has helped me with technique on my instrument. I play with better form, articulation, and intonation since I have taken lessons from him. He has also helped improve my musicality: I have learned to look at a piece and find larger phrases and movements in order to better express the emotion of the piece.
Most importantly, however, Mike has helped me with my attitude. He has me do mock performances on a regular basis. This has forced me to be more confident and ready at my lessons. He also exudes positivity and has caused me to improve my view of my playing as well as my work outside of music. On more than one occasion, Mike has helped prepare me for interviews and other events in which a performance mindset is necessary.
I leave my lessons every week in a better mood and feeling better about my workload, music, or playing than when I came in. Mike Walker has helped me become a better musician and a more positive, confident person."- Anneliese Toumey, Indiana University student