Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy of J. David Arnott


Whether working with students at the university level who are striving for a professional career in music, or working with those who wish mainly to enrich their own lives and communities through analysis of, participation in, and support of the arts, my goals are the same: I believe in attaining the highest standards possible while retaining a positive learning environment and above all else, I believe in teaching students how to practice. The ability to assess the full potential of a student and an ensemble is paramount to this belief. By meeting students where they are, and designing programs with the level of the students and of the performing group in mind, I believe that much can be achieved. Students can be taught how to appreciate the intricacies of music from various and differing periods and different genres, to think critically about pieces they are learning and how to work and practice toward specific goals. In order to help students to reach their fullest capabilities, I believe that my role as “teacher” is to help students learn to achieve, as well as to value and enjoy the work necessary for great performances. Beyond this basic philosophy, I believe that the key to a successful orchestral program lies in long-term development with special regard to recruitment of new students and retention of current students. In the string area, the orchestra is the focal point of the music program. When the orchestra program is secure, it will attract new students to the college in all areas at the same time enhancing other components of the school of music. The orchestra, more than almost anything else, attracts students who are truly interested in the serious study of “classical” music as well as all areas and genres of music. Opera needs the orchestra. Ballet needs the orchestra. Musical theater needs the orchestra. (Though the orchestra also needs chamber musicians!). It is imperative that the orchestra be at its best at all times.


The arts maintain an important part of the history of humankind. Civilizations are remembered not so much for their day-to-day activities but for their art: visual, literary, and performing. The university orchestra has a great opportunity to affect the community and it can and should be the focal point of any arts community. As seen recently, our society at large does not value the arts the way it should, and society is on the verge of valuing the arts even less. This necessary change must be enacted through strong arts education and strong arts programs such as a university orchestra.