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Costa Rica: Hiring and Excellence

Hi. I'm fascinated with your post. I'm planning to start a Orff Ensemble into the School of Music where I'm the principal and the Conductor of the Youth Symphony Orchestra, in Grecia, Costa Rica. I very impressed with your vision of the work, and sincerely that is what I'm thinking about. Can you give some advice to start effectively a high-standard group of children, starting at 5 years old, in order to turn it in the base or 'seedbed' for our symphony program.

This reader's dilemma addresses the core value that is the heart and soul of Kodaly music education. Having studied at the highest levels in Juilliard, The Curtis Institute, and elsewhere, taught college level, Pre-school, I can safely say that the same general concepts are addressed throughout life.  From cradle to grave, we tackle speak/sing, high/low, loud/soft, short/long, smooth/bumpy, and short/long.

Whether in Costa Rica or San Francisco, you need a teacher with the right stuff.  Here's what to look for.

The teacher wants to be there.

Please interview people and check for the gleam in their eyes. Like any other loving endeavor, teaching without joy is dead.  I have heard many horror stories about music teachers, all of them about people who just didn't want to be teaching.

The teacher is an excellent musician

If you don't know it's broken, you can't fix it.  Hire people with good enough ears to have high standards.

Look for a teacher who knows pedagogy

If you know how to access the learning process in humans, you will be able to get your curriculum delivered.  A good learning process has discipline and classroom management embeded in it.  Ask about the process and you'll learn about management and discipline. 

Find someone with vision

If you are asking me where to begin, you don't have a vision.  That's fine.  Hire someone who does.  Let their ideas be your ideas and create a fertile environment so that a collective vision can emerge.  All too often, administrators have no vision, hire someone with vision, then stifle the person they hired. 

Summing up

Unless someone has honed their musical intelligence, they are deaf to a high level of musical achievement.  As such, they cannot demand high standards of students because they don't have high standards themselves.  You need to hire people to teach who are high level musicians.  But hiring a good musician is far from enough.  Pedagogy is an art in and of itself.  Hire someone trained in the techniques of teaching.  If they are Kodaly, make sure they didn't just read a book; they need to have studied from a certified Kodaly program.  If they are Suzuki, find out how close their training program is to the actual person of Dr. Suzuki.  Many people claiming Suzuki training have no real concept of the core values and principles of Suzuki.  The same goes for Orff, Dalcroze, and Gordon.  One seminar does not a master teacher make!

Have them teach a sample lesson.  The proof is in the pudding. 

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