Teaching Talented Teenagers at the Interlochen Arts Academy

By Haroutounian, Joanne | Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Teaching Talented Teenagers at the Interlochen Arts Academy


Haroutounian, Joanne, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education


An Interview With Three Master Teachers: Crispin Campbell, Hal Grossman, and T. J. Lymenstull

Abstract

The unique relationship between a master teacher and a talented teenage musician in the private studio arrives at a time in musical development where students are discovering abstract musical concepts and beginning to develop interpretive musical reasoning. This interview with three performing master teachers at the Interlochen Arts Academy features personal teaching approaches that develop the problem-solving skills that are essential for advanced musical study. The article reveals a positive master teacher-student dynamic that nurtures technical facility, as well as interpretive decision making. The discussion explains the role of competition for a talented teenage musician and describes the essential requirements for admission to a major conservatory.

The master teacher plays a pivotal role in the advanced development of a musically talented teenager. Examination of the literature presents the dichotomous image of a tyrant or a role model, or both--tyrant as role model (Howe & Sloboda, 1991; Persson, 1996; Rezits, 1997; Sloboda & Howe, 1991; Sosniak, 1985). An interview with master teachers of highly talented students at a specialized arts school may offer some fresh insights concerning the goals of students at this level of development and teaching strategies that encourage artistic reasoning. As performing artists themselves, these teachers have personally realized a career in music and the essentials needed for students seeking to become future young artists.

The Interlochen Arts Academy, established in 1962, is a private residential high school for the arts and noted as the first private school to give equal emphasis to the arts and academics. The school offers a balanced curriculum that provides an advanced precollegiate program of academic studies and arts training that is equivalent to the collegiate level. Students maintain a rigorous schedule of classes extending from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. that includes three to four academic classes and three to four hours of arts instruction. As students progress, schedules are adjusted to suit the needs of students preparing for a career in the arts. For example, a senior majoring in music may have only two academics in the schedule, with a heavy emphasis on music lessons, practice, and rehearsals to prepare for auditions to prestigious colleges and conservatories (Galbraith, 1985).

The interview with the Interlochen Piano Trio took place at the Music Teachers National Convention in Minneapolis in March 2000, following their performance and attendance at pedagogy sessions and competitions held at the convention. Crisp in Campbell (CC) has taught cello at the academy for the past 20 years. Hal Grossman (HG) reaches violin at the academy following seven years teaching at Miami University. Thomas J. Lymenstull (TL) arrived at the academy after 10 years on the piano faculty of the University of Southern California. Our interview explored the intricate balance of instructional strategies used by master teachers when working with impressionable teenagers.

JH (Joanne Haroutounian): We are discussing the role of the master teacher in the instruction of talented teenagers. There is a general impression of the master teacher dictating interpretations to the student toward achieving polished competition performances. What is a nurturing musical atmosphere for a talented teenager? What are some strategies used in your studios? What role should competition play at this stage of a student's development?

CC: What I try to do with these students, many of whom are highly talented and highly motivated, is very personal. I try to set them up with a creative personal process toward music so that, when they go to college, they have acquired the necessary tools to solve technical problems on their own and make informed musical decisions. …

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