Category Archives: teaching philosophy

Creativity Explosion

Watching my students struggle slightly with a creativity exercise, made me reflect on one of my more influential private lessons with Jeanne DeGeyter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One part consisted of watching regional pros compete and she pointed out that’s a whip, that’s a side pass, that’s an underarm passby, that’s a tuck turn, and other basic patterns. I wasn’t quick to recognize them for what they were because the handholds were all different! So we played with this concept.

The private lesson dialogue may have gone like this: “Lead a normal underarm passby. Ok. Now do it in right to left handhold. See how it feels different? What might you do after this that feels good? Now do it in right to right. Ok. Try a whip with a two-hand open-position hold. Interesting interpretation, but it worked.”

Try it out! See what you create and learn.

Solo Fundamentals


In my experience, solo jazz movement has always been a priority, but the thought of jumping into a solo jam circle or contest has always put the fear of a thousand deaths straight into the core of my being. I have profoundly crashed and burned in front of my savvy solo peers because I was missing three crucial components of spontaneous solo movement: a solid repertoire, effortless musicality, and perhaps most important, unbridled joy. Continue reading

Ask Students To Do

One time when I taught in Zagreb, I asked my fellow teacher if she wanted to share anything and she proceeded to tell the students every thing they should not do. It was an impressively long and overwhelming list. Once she was done, I quickly jumped in, asked my students to do one thing and played practice music.

Here’s one of my main teaching philosophies. Ask your students to do something. It’s easy to ask them to not do something, but that opens the doors to limitless possibilities and focusing on what not to do. Instead, make a specific request. Phrase positive. And end any visual examples with good ones. Get them thinking positively and constructively.

Do Think of Pink Elephants – Phrasing Positive

Never mind. Don’t think of pink elephants. You failed, didn’t you? You’re probably thinking of pink elephants right now, perhaps even Google searching them.  Let’s try another one. Don’t think of pizza. Did it work? Are you abstaining from those mental images?


It’s hard, isn’t it? Our mind somehow passes over the “not” and skips to what follows it. We’re searching for what to do. We’re searching for the actionable message.  Continue reading