Teaching Philosophy

Performer & Educator

Jena Gardner

Copyright 2018. Jena Gardner, Horn. All rights reserved.


Study Horn at Western Illinois University!

As a performing musician, I am dedicated to the value of lifelong learning through the enjoyment of music.  This value makes up the core of my pedagogy which seeks to provide a holistic approach to musicianship through the experience of playing the horn.  In the many educational settings, music making is necessarily divided into various subjects (ie. history, ear training, theory, ensembles, lessons) and it becomes easy to compartmentalize the various skills that create a great performance or a great musician.  As an applied lesson instructor, it is my privilege to meet with students one-on-one each week and help them to link together and enhance all the elements involved in a musical idea.  By guiding students through this process over the course of their degree, it is my aim that they will become their own teachers and have at least a preliminary method for doing so.

My teaching seeks to address horn specific issues in a manner that engages the student in the process.  First and foremost, I highlight the broader expressive purpose of music making and use this as a vehicle to improve sound and technique. It is my experience that students and teachers get caught up in the technical components of music (rhythm, notes, intonation, articulation, and dynamics).  While these are essential, in my performing and teaching I emphasize these basics as tools that aid in expression and style objectives; much like a writer can more effectively tell a story with good grammar and a wide vocabulary.  For the development of a characteristic beautiful horn sound, I focus on the fundamentals of horn technique: singing, use of air, embouchure, posture, efficiency, and an understanding of the instrument’s physical mechanics.   I make a point to frequently model with my own playing as it is often the most effective means for a student to grasp new concepts. Ultimately upon leaving the school environment, it is the student who will be responsible for evaluating their performance.  I encourage the student to actively listen and provide feedback by asking them to articulate what was different about how they played a phrase or when making a physical change which sound they prefer, etc.

Musical mastery requires work well beyond the isolated practice room.  For example, to contextualize a Mozart horn concerto, I ask a student to research the composer’s historical background and who he wrote it for.  I have them explore playing some or all of it on a natural horn, noticing what may be easier or more difficult and considering how phrasing may be effected by the “closed” notes. I request that they complete some theoretical analysis to the extent they are able, in order to understand musical structure and significant harmonic moments.  Finally, I may suggest additional texts, recordings, or consultations with university colleagues, all in an effort to supplement the student’s understanding and interpretation of the meaning and style of the work.

Outside of individual lessons, it is my obligation as a mentor to be present and to teach students in the context of studio class, chamber music, and large ensembles.  Music is most often a community activity; both in the sense of performing for an audience and performing chamber music or symphonic literature with colleagues.  Observing students in these varied settings offers the opportunity to address issues like intonation, matching stylistic characteristics, and professionalism and furthermore helps to identify students who may perform differently under the pressure of public observation.

A peak performer recognizes that there are many other elements that indirectly impact performance ability: listening skills, health and wellness, organization, and professionalism to name a few.  I make a point to encourage students to attend as many live performances as possible, to explore the impact of mind-body methods like Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique, to set practice and performance goals, and to be conscientious of their colleagues.  Although these tools have aided my own musicianship, I am open to and encouraging of students exploring and sharing their own ideas with me and their colleagues.

Today’s music students face an ever evolving and challenging global music profession.  I consider it an honor and a privilege to work with young aspiring performers and take seriously my role as their mentor.  My pedagogical goal is to consider an individual’s goals, strengths and weaknesses, interests etc. and guide them on what I hope will be only the beginning of their own path to lifelong learning and enjoyment of music.