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Teaching Tips with Jazz Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon

Four rules for every music educator to adopt.

Jazz trombonist Wycliffe Gordon is dedicated to teaching young musicians when he isn’t performing. He works to continually evolve his techniques but relies on a few tried-and-true philosophies, including:

1. Don’t define yourself by one teaching style.

Remain open to new ways of teaching a concept, which to Gordon means “learning while you teach.”

2. If you can sing it, you can play it.

Utilize singing and dancing to help students grasp difficult rhythms, melodies and harmonies. “Have the students sing together before playing,” Wycliffe suggests. “This way, they’re on the same level of comfort.”

3. Get the administration involved.

Teach the administration – along with other teachers – the importance of supporting a program. One surefire way to improve your relationship with administrators is to invite them to performances, Gordon says.

4. Accept that you can only do so much as a music educator.

Some children will inevitably fail to grasp the importance of working together. “If I can’t get a student to cooperate, then [he or she] is out of the ensemble,” Wycliffe says, “regardless of his or her musical ability.” When this happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. At a certain point, you must accept that you’ve done all you can do.




This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.


Emily Moneymaker started playing the family instrument - trumpet - at the age of 8 and continues to play to this day. A graduate from the University of Southern California, she performed with the Trojan Marching Band. She now works in marketing in Los Angeles and writes for Halftime Magazine.

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