Method & Curriculum
Brendan’s method of teaching is based on the flipped-classroom model, whereby lesson time is spent learning to play pieces of music or improvise over them, rather than hammering rudiments for the lesson’s duration. Students’ learning of rudimentary skills is done mostly outside the lessons, aided by instructional videos Brendan has personally created and tailored to his curriculum.
Students whose teachers heavily prioritize the learning of songs at the expense of learning proper technique and theory tend not to learn the instrument–or musical principles, for that matter–to any significant depth. In contrast, students whose teachers heavily prioritize the learning of theory and proper technique at the expense of learning songs tend to become bored and uninterested quickly. The golden mean between these extremes is one that balances theory/technique with literature so that the student is able to perform pieces of music from a place of knowledge and understanding of the musical principles underlying the song.
As should be the goal of any good teacher, Brendan’s goal in teaching is to elevate students’ understanding of music and of the instrument to the point that they do not need him anymore. The crucial components of this goal are 1) to teach students how to ask the right questions to receive answers that satisfy their musical curiosities; and 2) to help students establish enough of a solid musical foundation that allows them to learn, understand, implement, and retain the information they find.
While working as an adjunct guitar instructor at New York University, Brendan created a guitar lesson boot camp. Euphemistically titled “Lamb Studies” because of its reliance on the melody of the pentatonic folk song “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” this boot camp introduces students to both the layout and basic patterns of the guitar, and to elements of music theory and literacy as well. This dual function makes Lamb Studies an effective learning tool for beginners to the instrument but also to guitar veterans who lack a solid foundation of music theory as it pertains to the guitar and/or who cannot read music. Once students have mastered the principles of the Lamb Studies curriculum, the lessons become much more flexible, at which point they are tailored to the interests of the student.
Consistent with Brendan’s background in formal education, lessons typically involve the establishment of a specific objective related to the Lamb Studies or post-Lamb Studies curriculum. While the use of objectives can make lessons seem inorganic and mechanical, they are a reliable way to demonstrate the fact (and degree) of students’ progress, and help students identify the specific principles required for the competent and knowledgeable performance of a piece of music. That having been said, objectives may be abandoned mid-lesson if the dynamic of the lesson and the student’s curiosities and passions so dictate.
Brendan has a Professional Educator License registered with the Illinois State Board of Education, with endorsements in Music (grades K-12) and History/Social Studies (grades 6-12). He has taught virtually every kind of student: young children, adult students, beginners to both music and guitar, beginners to guitar who have prior musical experience with singing or on another instrument, intermediate students, advanced students, students at all levels of music literacy, and students with disabilities. Brendan’s most advanced student is currently (as of May 2018) the pit orchestra guitarist for a national tour of the musical “Dirty Dancing.”