Lewis Westerfield


Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is rooted in the Jacobs Song & Wind tradition. I strongly believe the brass player should focus on singing the music in their head while playing and keep a healthy air supply for support. The brass instrument is capable of playing multiple notes with each fingering, which is why it is paramount for the player to be sending in the correct pitches. Physically singing, playing a piano, and recording your practice are all incredibly helpful tools in training your ear to hear the song. Once you have the song in your head, making music becomes possible.

Behind the song is wind, without it there is nothing to make the lips vibrate. Building good breathing techniques and training the body to move wind in an efficient manner is necessary for the complete development of the brass player. However, to encourage development of good habits these must be done away from the horn. The song needs to dominate the thought when the horn is in a player’s hand, not moving wind. That, ideally, will be on a subconscious level when performing.

Method & etude books and solos are vital to the development of a musician and should be in use constantly. Etudes provide clear and easy short-term goals which allow a young player to quickly notice their development. Solos would be long-term or semester goals. Another useful tool is group warm-up/routine sessions. Involving a group allows the students to engage with other players, as well as forcing them to do their daily routine when they might not otherwise. Chamber music is also vital to the development of a musician. Part autonomy and working with others on intricate pieces is necessary for a working musician and chamber music forces the development of this skill. It is the quickest and easiest route to becoming a more confident musician.

I make sure to ask my students a lot of questions so I can have them put their experience playing the instrument in their own words. I have found that this greatly increases retention of my points, as the students understand, in their own way, what I was trying to teach them. I have also recently started having the students record and transcribe their lessons as this further reinforces the points they are learning. Since I only teach them one to two hours a week at most it is vital that they understand the process they need to undertake in order to improve.

Lewis Westerfield