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Applied Lessons

One of the best parts about being a music major is the one-on-one class that meets regularly, known as applied lessons. Musical training is still largely based on the apprenticeship system and is unique among the modern academic disciplines. Most classes will have dozens (or even hundreds) of students with little personalized attention provided to individual students. In the music program, students get about twelve 45-minute private lessons every semester. Additionally I serve as the academic adviser to all of my applied students.   

This aspect of the music curriculum is one of my favorites- I LOVE working with students. I love that it is a great challenge for both teacher and student. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility on the student to adequately prepare materials so the lesson time is not wasted and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on the part of the teacher to help direct that energy in a productive way that fosters discovery (you cannot force discovery with the same long-term result). I take this responsibility very seriously.

Here is what is expected of the trombone students at Troy University:

Lesson Times

Lesson times will be determined at the beginning of the semester. Lessons will happen weekly. There will be occasional dates and times where lessons will be cancelled. Rather than trying to schedule make-ups, we have 45-minute lessons regularly to accommodate the difference.

Preparation

You are expected to practice every day. Though the quantity may vary from day-to-day or person-to-person, Here are some GENERAL guidelines:

Students enrolled in MUS 1124 (non-major lessons) and are receiving under $1000 of band scholarship assistance are encouraged to practice 14 units per week (roughly 30 minutes a day).

Students enrolled in MUS 1124 (non-major lessons) and are receiving $1000 or more in band scholarship assistance are required to practice 21-28 units per week (roughly 30 minutes a day).

Students enrolled in MUS 2224, 3324, or 4424 (music majors) are required to practice 42 units per week (roughly 2 hours per day). This will be a challenge in the fall as Thursdays and most Saturdays will be loaded with band obligations. Therefore a student will need to plan the week out in advance to avoid coming up short.  

Remember that these numbers represent a MINIMUM, not a maximum amount to practice. For students that wish to go on to graduate school, take auditions for summer festivals or regional competitions, etc. should be practicing at least 56 units a week to remain competitive on a regional scale. For those students that want to play professionally, 64 to 72 units per week is recommended to progress at a productive enough rate.

Every student will have a slightly different schedule that will change their availability, however these numbers reflect a reasonable standard from which you can base your schedule.  Your practice is your homework, and the work you do outside of the lesson is extremely important- it will determine how much growth can happen in the lesson! Most graduates of a music degree attribute the largest part of their development to the time and work put forth toward applied lessons. This growth will only happen if your individual practice time represents one of the biggest uses of your time as a college student.

For more information about the Troy Trombone Ensembles, click here.

Lesson Repertoire

I have several exercises to develop technique and fluency on the instrument, and students should be working through these exercises regularly (making sure they cycle through and alternate to maintain balance within the week).

Here are some links to more detailed information regarding lesson repertoire:

Technique (in control)

Repertoire (well-informed)

Practice Charts

All Troy Trombone students are required to keep track of practice sessions with the studio practice charts.  More information about practice charts can be found following this link:

I Practice Every Day

For me, I have learned that if I play every day, I improve faster. Follow my journey on my 1000 Day Challenge where I practice for 1000 consecutive days with no day off.

Adequate Rest Time- Microbreaks

Always remember to take care of your mind and body.  Use the following link to see great examples of stretches and body rehab exercises you can do in between practice sessions.

Punctuality

With 45 minutes (including transition time between students) we will all have to work together to get the most out of this precious time. Please be ready and warmed up precisely at your lesson time.  When it is your lesson time, please knock, and enter the room. Knock loudly so we may hear you. Enter. Do not wait for an invitation- it is YOUR time! I will be wrapping up with the previous lesson and sometimes your entrance will signal to us that it is time to go.  

Please do not be early

When a student is early, I understand how this is usually interpreted as a student greatly respects the time of their teacher and is showing how motivated they are. I also understand that in an ensemble setting, it is advantageous to show up early, get set, play some notes, and be ready for the downbeat. In a ten-person ensemble, one person showing up three minutes late is the same as the group losing thirty minutes of productivity (since the other nine members cannot function optimally with one part missing). Different rules apply for a private lesson, however. Showing up more than a minute or two early shows a few other qualities that are less desirable. 

First, it shows that a student is not being productive.  For example, if a student sits outside an office door for several minutes when they could be practicing, it shows me that they do not use their time efficiently or effectively- at least not to the level where those minutes are of value to them. It makes no sense to show up 5 minutes early and sit when you could hop into a practice room, play for 2-3 minutes, then show up warm and ready to go. 

Second, if a student sits outside an office door when they could be doing any one of a number of other things, it might indicate that they value other people’s time over their own. In college, we need to strike a balance between valuing other people’s time as well as our own time. If we give our own time away so easily, then we will not progress enough and it shows we have not yet mastered a balance between the two. 

The saying “To be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late; and to be late is unacceptable” can be overdone.  In this context, more is not more. Remember playing a note early is just as ‘wrong’ as playing a note 'late’. If I had to choose between a student showing up two minutes late or two minutes early, I would choose two minutes late. It shows me that you are busy- you should be busy. You are in college. We will easily absorb those two minutes in our schedule. I want to see students that are running around getting things done. I will gladly take a student that is two minutes late because they are taking care of other responsibilities than a student who is not productive, yet they are early to their lesson! These are my views on the matter, not everyone's.

The Complete Lesson Experience

I recommend using the 30 minutes before your lesson to practice (so you are warmed up and mentally ready to go when you arrive for your lesson) and using the 30 minutes after to practice (so you can go through and solidify the goals for the next week).  Over the years my students have found that this time was just as valuable than the lesson itself! Though it is not always possible, try to pick a lesson time that enables this kind of schedule for you.

Recording your lesson

Students are encouraged to record their lesson. I record lessons but cannot provide this footage in a timely enough manner. If you want lesson footage immediately, I recommend getting a recording device of some kind. Phones, voice recorders, camcorders etc. are all valuable resources.

Being able to review your lesson will greatly increase the quality of your retention and therefore your long-term productivity.

If you have to miss a lesson

Whenever possible, you should inform me with as much advance notice as possible. Obviously emergencies are a different consideration, however many conflicts can be anticipated. If it is less than 24 hours before your lesson, it will effect your grade (see 'grading' for more information).

How to contact me

Stop by my office (Smith 109E), email me at sulliman@troy.edu, or call me (cell phone is in the syllabus). Having a friend or classmate with a similar conflict who tells me is not an acceptable way to handle it! Part of what we are learning here is professional communication skills, and schedule management. Do not rely on general announcements to take care of it for you. 

All emergencies (including last-minute illnesses) need to be followed up with official documentation (a receipt from health services or a doctor's office, etc.) in order to be excused from grading protocol. It is on you to get this information to me. I will not remind you- you must take this responsibility very seriously and be proactive.

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