About Jane Blackstone

What Makes a Successful Teacher

Solid Life Experience

In my earliest years, as a singer, my passion was to learn from other musicians and from the "doing" aspect of performing music (Jazz and Contemporary Styles) that was so special to me. This "doing" and the fact that one has to experience and learn from real life failures as well as successes" has made me a stronger educator. It is about taking risks, and I was not afraid to be where the musicians were and to try out my musical ideas with some of the best in New York; some applauded me, and some smiled and said, "you have more to learn." Therefore, I suggest that teachers, first and foremost, need humility; and to be willing to learn from their own students!


Through my teaching of singing technique and piano harmony, technique and repertoire for young people, I believe that a dedicated, successful teacher must modify their own teaching style if it is not appropriate for the student, not the other way around. This can be accomplished simply by observing and paying attention to these simple guidelines: 1) don’t use condemnation for playing poorly. 3) Don’t bring up past failures long after they have passed. 4) Don’t point out errors in front of other students or compare to others who may be more talented.5) don’t ridicule the student or raise your voice unpleasantly. I also believe that the simple guidelines mentioned above are applicable to college students in private universities and community colleges; but on a more sophisticated level. However, modeling one's teaching approach to a whole classroom may be a more complicated affair than to a one-on one or small class situation. Therefore, the really successful educator is someone who can stay a little bit ahead of his or students by observing their strengths and their weaknesses, and by carefully challenging their thinking and their instincts accordingly. If a teacher respects his or her students from the beginning, it raises the level of inspiration that can only help students to relax and prosper academically.

Past The Mental Moods Of Students

An educator /teacher in the arts does need to be appreciated and respected by his or her students through the years. This brings success for both the teacher and the students. But how does he or she earn this respect? Today, teachers need charisma – they must come to the class being inspirational; being observant; being good musicians themselves and lastly, a bit of a psychologist. Students who begin their musical studies, whether it is at a university, community college, private school, public schools or privately come with a set of built in mechanisms that influence the way they approach learning. To bring a student to the place of deeper learning, not just surface learning, which is, connected to " so-called mental moods", a great educator cannot exactly "tell the truth" -they actually trick the students into a learning environment outside their normal routine. For instance, I was surprised to learn American children from well -to-do families seem to suffer from this "pre-set mental mood" in that they belief that making effort in music is "too hard". I realize now that what I may be doing as a music educator, does not only relate to the learning of the piano or the technique of vocalization, but rather how to think and prepare - how to stretch ones own beliefs about ones own abilities -and get outside of these on-board "mental moods".

Creating A Community For Students

The benefit of life long music education is well documented. I believe through my travels as a performing singer/pianist, that with the studying of all music comes a broader perspective on global cultures. Music, in all its different forms, breaks down barriers of race, religion, politics, and geography. Through analysis of the use of music in different cultural contexts, students are better prepared to talk and understand about other cultures, as well as draw parallels between themselves and other peoples of the world. In closing, I believe it is the responsibility of music educators in our universities, public schools and private, that they should embrace the global community of music making and create a community that stretches beyond the classroom for their students.