Lee Wallace is part of a legacy of great Canadian jazz musicians. He studied the guitar with his father, acclaimed bassist Steve Wallace, an alumnus of the Oscar Peterson Trio. He keeps a busy performance schedule, appearing in clubs and festivals throughout North America, including regular gigs in venues across Toronto.
For the last five years, Lee has also been a dedicated music teacher, recently completing our online course Teaching Elementary Piano and Teaching Intermediate Piano. In this interview, Lee offers thoughtful insights into the practice of teaching and relates the many benefits of our course.
Why did you decide to become a music teacher? How long have you been teaching?
I’ve always been compelled to play music and work on myself as a musician. Becoming a music teacher seemed like a natural way to build on that. I teach piano and guitar—mostly the latter. I have been teaching for over five years now.
What do you love most about being a music teacher?
I love that my teaching work allows me to be in constant contact with the process of music-making in a variety of ways. As a teacher you are an instrumentalist, an inquirer, a listener, a critic, a technique modeller, etc. Creating a relaxed learning environment while staying focused and wearing these different hats is a challenge! Also, it is wonderful to get to know a diverse group of people and see them grow over time.
What attracted you to our Online Piano Teacher Courses?
When I began teaching piano, I was looking for ways to shore up my professional qualifications and I came across the RCM Elementary Piano Pedagogy certificate, available to candidates who complete a number of written and practical exams. I did the piano and theory tests, but I demurred at the idea of taking on the pedagogy exams because I didn’t think studying independently and bugging my teaching colleagues for tips would prepare me. When the Elementary Piano Teacher Specialist Course became available, it was an ideal solution.
What did you find most valuable about the course?
I found the discussion forum to be very valuable. Beyond being a place to go over the topics covered in the course every week, it allowed an exchange of stories and ideas with other teachers, which was very inspiring. The generosity of my classmates in sharing approaches really lifted my teaching practice. Also, writing about the course topics brought my own ideas into clearer focus and the detailed feedback from the course teacher revealed my weaknesses and confirmed where I was on the right track. All of this had a strong influence on me and changed the way I teach.
How do you think jazz teachers in particular might benefit from the course?
I think jazz teachers could benefit from the tools provided in this course that help us give our elementary students a really strong grounding in musicianship. The readings and videos have great information on diverse topics like developing a sense of pulse and meter; physical approaches to the instrument; harmonic and formal awareness; pitch sensitivity; and many more too numerous to list. Students who gain familiarity with these fundamentals from the beginning of their studies will probably be better prepared when it comes time to try playing something that is not written on the page!
For more information about our Online Piano Teacher Courses, visit rcmusic.ca/pianoteachercourses. Registration for the next session closes January 10, 2018.