Matt Pickart

violinist-violist-jazz musician-teacher

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My teaching philosophy

As a teacher, I believe we have the tremendous responsibility to inspire the next generation of musicians to surpass our own accomplishments. Accompanied by a positive attitude and constant encouragement, my ambition is to challenge my students to meet and exceed their personal goals. I view my teaching role as one in which I have the privilege to guide the student along their own personal journey and offer the appropriate technical tools and musical advice with which they need in order to succeed. Every student has different abilities as well as different goals, and I endeavor to approach each student as an individual with their own needs and expectations of the music profession. Ultimately, I believe that it is most crucial for me to instill in all my students a strong sense of musical self-sufficiency and an ever-growing love for music so that they feel that they can pursue their own careers with an even greater purpose and confidence when they finish with my tutelage.

Whether I am starting students from scratch, or coaching professionals, it is essential to promote strong foundational skills. Through technical facility and ability, and a great love for music, anything is possible. With these skill sets, and a balanced diet of scales, music theory, technical exercises, etudes, and repertoire, I empower each of my students so that they can pursue, with fluency, the music that inspires them. One of my foundational principles is that it is paramount to have complete control of the sound with your bow. A good sound is a trademark of all good string teaching. My approach to the bow is rooted in the best of the Franco-Belgian and Russian schools, as passed down from my mentor, Yuri Gandelsman. From the beginning, I stress that students should be able to make a variety of tones and colors with their bow. To do this, they need to fully understand the physics of bowing. I have all my students; no matter what level, warm up with a variety of open string exercises. These are all practice habits that require slow repetition, attentive listening, and patience, and eventually must be engrained in the student work ethic as they become more independently motivated in their pursuit of musical excellence.

I regularly expose my students to a large variety of music in and outside lessons, in the hopes that their musical horizons and sources of inspiration will be broadened. I incorporate folk, blues, jazz, and world music into lessons with classical students. I find that it opens them up and improves their musicality. Watching the excitement of a younger student’s face when they are improvising for the first time over a simple blues pattern is an amazing experience. Students, who are primarily studying improvisation with me, also have to have a very strong foundation. When I was taking jazz lessons from Rodney Whitaker, he always had a copy of the Bach Suites on his stand. He told me, he made all of his jazz bass students study them. Scales and music theory are a given teaching any genre across the board. My violin teacher Sidney Harth installed the importance of extensive scale practice in my daily routine, and I have in turn instilled this discipline in my students.

Musical collaboration and networking are a vital part of my studio teaching philosophy. From my large network of musicians, I regularly invite inspiring performers and talented pedagogues to collaborate, give masterclasses, workshops, and to work with my students on a regular basis. I feel it’s very important that young musicians are exposed to a vast array of learning experiences. Through Clazz International Music Festival, it is my goal to expose classically trained students to the world of improvisation through interaction and collaboration with the outstanding jazz and crossover musicians that I am able to bring to the festival. In fact, stepping outside of one’s own comfort zone is an important facet of my teaching philosophy. I encourage my students to listen to as many concerts as they can, especially of instruments and music they are not familiar with. It is also important for them to perform regularly, and to collaborate with areas outside of music, such as dance and theater. Students should meet people through music and be active in their own communities, in school and beyond. Through this greater connectivity, students grow musically and personally, find opportunities, and create opportunities. As a performer I view music as a medium through which we can connect with the community, and in my teaching this is what I hope to impart to my students.