Tools & Education
Whether you are preparing to build a bassoon studio or already have one established, there is one thing you can always count on... students don't always come prepared and/or they come with a problem, expecting you to "fix it." These problems can be very time consuming, taking valuable time away from lessons, but it's part of the territory!
After experiencing a number of these lessons and saying to myself, "Shoot, I wish I had a (fill in the blank), I have gradually built a Teacher's #Toolkit bag. This jam-packed bag is something I bring with me to every lesson, like a first-aid kit for bassoon lessons! Here is what I've packed it with over the years.
1.) Variety of Method Books & Pieces - Even if you are fortunate enough to have a room where you can leave materials, you can not have your entire music library with you during every lesson! However, you can bring a sampling of standard materials for varying experience levels; Weissenborn, Pares Scales, Milde etudes, Vivaldi collections, Weber, Mozart and an assortment of duets. If a student forgets their music, or you decide to end a lesson with sightreading or duets, you have some material at the ready. Reminder: Always write your name on your music. It is rather easy for music to get shuffled together on the music stand. Having your name on it at least increases the chances of its return!
2.) Reed Tools - For many, bringing a small tool kit with your essential tools is a given. But take a moment to think outside the box. There have been some pretty fascinating reeds I've had to work on during lessons, each bringing their own set of challenges. For those times, I include an assortment of extra wires, wrapping, small tube of cement or glue, (and for that really fun reed) a small bottle of Listerine.....
3.) Instrument Repair Tools - No matter the age of an instrument, bassoons have a tendency of going pop-in-the-night. Sometimes it's minor problem, like a sticky pad, but other times the problem can make it difficult, or nearly impossible, to continue with a lesson. Therefore, in addition to a Reed Tool Kit, I have a Quick-Repair Toolkit:
Mini screwdriver set
Light key oil
Cork grease & paraffin wax
Floss and extra wrapping (for when the weather changes and joints need extra padding)
Itty bitty crochet hook (for those pesky springs)
Bocal brush (yum!)
4.) Human Repair Tools - And of course, there are times when we need fixing too! Wires are sharp, seasons change, colds happen... it's amazing what a few tissues can do! This Wellness kit is small, but oh so necessary:
Tissues, Tissues (and more tissues)
Tylenol (for "me"... should a particular day be a struggle)
5.) Extra Parts - To this day, it still amazes me how many reeds a student can manage to squeeze into the plastic tubes that reeds are mailed in. What doesn't surprise me, is the condition of those reeds.... Sometimes the most basic of materials/equipment are missing from a student's possession or "need-to-have" list, so I keep bring some options:
Reed cases = (Altoid's cases with padding)
Container for soaking (Film canisters)
Seatstraps (Seeing a 10 year old try to carry a bassoon on a neck strap and take a deep breath is slightly frightening)
Small Key Ring (For those odd bassoons that seem to not want to accept the size of your average seat strap hook....)
6.) Recording Device - At times it is terrific for students to hear themselves. Playing back a short recording, where a student can hear their pitch, articulation, etc., can be very insightful. With smart phone recording technology, you likely don't need to carry an actual recording device, but it's something to consider adding to this bag!
7.) Lesson Journal - Whether a studio has two students or nine, keeping a record of each student's lesson is INCREDIBLY helpful. It's hard enough keeping track of our own crazy schedules, let alone also remembering what Mary's assignment was from 2 weeks ago before Thanksgiving....
At the end of each lesson, I summarize what we went over in the lesson and advise the student what to work on, as I write in the journal. I make sure to include the student's name, the date & time of the lesson, and the length of the lesson (as a personal record) as well as notes to myself, (make Sean a reed! Sue has your
Vivaldi book). The Journal is not only essential for keeping me on track, it also demonstrates organizational skills for students, something we hope they will pick up on.
This may seem a bit Mary Poppins-esque and, for a handful of lessons, you may never reach into your bag, but for those lessons that you do, you will be grateful that you have such a Toolkit!
What else might you include in your Teacher's Toolkit?