World Teachers' Day celebrates the role teachers play in providing quality education at all levels, enabling children and adults of all ages to learn and contribute to both local and global communities.
International Teachers' Day is a chance for us to recognise all of our music teachers worldwide. We appreciate all of the hard-work, patience and devotion that goes into teaching music to a range of ages and skill levels all around the world. We also recognise that the reasons an individual chooses to teach aren't (exclusively) about money or status. The reasons for passing on a creative craft can often stem from a more personal place, and while that can usually be expressed in a myriad of ways, they are almost all united by the desire to impact peoples’ lives positively.
With that in mind, we have reached out to a few of our Rockschool teachers from different nations to understand how Rockschool is being used in their corner of the world. We asked each of them a group of questions (that some of you will recognise from our 'Rockschool Stories' series) and put them all side-by-side. What we get is a really insightful set of answers that highlight the unifying power of music, despite the thousands of miles that separate each of these Rockschool music teachers.
Our three educators are:
Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business? Include any achievements you’d like to highlight.
FSN: I am a full time music teacher at Cristofori Music School and a freelance guitar instructor in Singapore. A highlight has been my performance for Rockschool Singapore's Concert in 2017 and 2018. It has been really rewarding to take part in Rockschool's teaching seminars here in Singapore for the last few years as well.
LP: As an educator, I mainly teach Rockschool Bass Guitar (with students starting from around the age of 11-12), Music Production (at all grades) and Popular Music Theory. I believe the practical should always work alongside the theoretical to enrich the students and provide a full education.
MR: I have taught Rockschool Electric and Acoustic Guitar and Vocals since 2005. I can't believe that's almost 15 years! After a couple of years of doing private lessons, in 2011 me and my wife founded our school, Music Harmony, in my hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia. Our main mission and vision is to link classical and popular music, to make a crossover between these two meta-genres. I feel students can learn a lot from studying both alongside each other.
How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?
LP: It has been 5 years now with Rockschool, and it really works for me because of its industry relevance and perfectly balanced grading system. The songs in the books are well suited at all stages in both entertainment and educational value - which is a really hard balance to strike when you're trying to teach such a potentially complex and challenging subject, such as modern music.
FSN: 3 years. Rockschool is a good platform to introduce various genres in-full. When you package the songs, technical exercises, stylistic studies, ear tests and general musicianship together, you really start to understand how much each student it getting out of every syllabus. It's still so rewarding every single time I see another student succeed.
MR: I have been using Rockschool since 2014. I'm still really satisfied with. So much so, I proudly started working as a Rockschool Serbia rep last year. This has not only helped my business a lot – recently becoming one of the biggest music schools in Serbia – but the growth itself has seen us reach more young musicians than we could've expected, which I hope is having an effect on the level of music education here in the process.
What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?
LP: I haven’t got a favourite one, but I really dig anything that ventures into blues-rock (at all grades), as they provide the best platform for building techniques upon – for those who're looking to develop bass-lines of their own further down the line. Whether it's a solo, or just working on general grooves, these tracks are always providing a lot of substance to their musical education.
FSN: There are so many of them, but if I have to choose it will have to be 'Fallout' from electric guitar, grade 3. The piece has such a cool groove whilst being a very technical piece to master. It teaches the student new techniques, control, patience, timing and a new set of rhythms to play around with.
MR: One of my favourite pieces is 'Overrated' because it's the time when I get to introduce playing octaves on guitar to my students. It's an essential part of their journey on the instrument, so it's always really satisfying when they finally get it. Also, I can't forget 'Hit it Harder'! A good appreciation of the shuffle/swing is so important for playing the blues. It opens up a door to playing so many more, really great tracks later on.
What’s your favourite test to teach, and why is it important for your learners?
FSN: 'Improvisation' is something students, and even seasoned musicians, can struggle to execute consistently. The art of playing with freedom – playing with 'feel' – takes a lot of hard-work and isn't something you can just do. A grade system instils a sense of work ethic, which is important for learners who want to express themselves and trust in their instinct to improvise or to create their own original compositions later on.
MR: My favourite test is 'Sight Reading', because I love to introduce a different way of thinking about reading music to students. I always spend more time telling them how important this is than any of type of test included in the Rockschool grades. Since I am a half classical, half popular music musician/educator, I tend to use my wider knowledge from both meta-genres, and exploit the merits in both forms to educate students in a different, but more cohesive way.
LP: 'Ear Tests' are my favourite test as they are the most difficult ones, but the most useful for a musician at any stage and at any level. I think a lot of people may not train themselves in a skillset like this if left alone, so the Rockschool method makes sure this in imbedded early; which, from experience, I have seen the worth of with many of my students as they progress.
What’s your favourite learner success story?
MR: I do not have a singular story, but any of my students who managed to go all the way from the introductory grades all the way up to Grade 8 (and beyond), are a true inspiration to me due to their commitment and dedication. It takes a lot of effort, drive and perseverance, so it's always an amazing thing to witness.
FSN: I have recently had a student with no musical direction, no foundational knowledge, and no appreciation for an array of influential genres; and through the Rockschool syllabus they now have a concrete path to travel with goals to meet. (He now loves reggae and the blues.)
LP: I got one of my bass students ready for an admission that needed a completed Grade 8 as part of the entry requirements. So, we started using the new Rockschool bass book from last year. I watched her work really hard, get her skills way up, and is now in her first year of a Music (BA) in London. These are the good moments.
What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?
FSN: Andy Larocque (King Diamond) for phrasing, Michael Angelo Batio (Nitro) for speed and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (Misfits) for sheer brutality! Enough said? Haha!
LP: I started playing the bass guitar, slapping like mad the way Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) does (or did), but then I discovered the Beatles. To me, it was pure bliss. Such wonderful songs to play-a-long to; such awesome and mature bass-lines; and all of those groundbreaking recording trick and techniques to learn and now, teach!
MR: First of all, it was Eric Clapton (the God!). Then, over time I discovered all of the other great bands and solo performers from that period. It would still have to be Clapton, because of his strong will to continue playing despite all the obstacles life put in front of him.
Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business? If so, explain what they are and why they’re important to you.
MR: As a Rockschool representative, and a music teacher, I want to spread the word about rockschool to all the folks In Serbia as much as I can. This is important to me personally, because there's so much pontential for students to have gaps in their music education they can be rectified by this methodology. I want to use Rockschool's resources as a way to further develop the landscape of music education in my country, and I'm glad I'm getting the support I need to do this.
FSN: I am currently preparing myself for a Level 6 Teaching Diploma with Rockschool. It is important for my role as a modern music teacher to be at my best and for the creditability that comes with earning such a great qualification. I have been informed that the updated versions are on their way, so I'll be applying as soon as they're available!
LP: The goal is to get my students ready for taking the Level 6 Diplomas (in any discipline) and get them straight into the business on their own terms, having a recognised qualifications that matches their passion and skill level.
We'd like to thank Luca, Marko and Firdaus for taking the time to talk to us! If you have an inspiring Rockschool teacher you'd like us to interview, please feel free to contact us directly by emailing us directly.