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Teaching Philosophy

Masterclass with Dr. Archie Chen
I recognize that every student has their own unique qualities and abilities and therefore adapt my teaching techniques to meet the individual needs of each student. I encourage camaraderie and constructive criticism among my students, and strive to provide guidance and support that will help them develop their skills and passion for music. Recognizing the significance of creative expression as a fundamental aspect of being created in God's image, both as a musician and teacher, my aim is to prepare all students for a lifelong engagement with music, irrespective of their career goals.

Effective communication is a key component of effective teaching and is a combination of natural ability and developed skill. As a teacher, I am passionate about sharing my knowledge with students and have honed my ability to communicate through years of on-the-job training. I strive to tailor my communication style to the individual needs of each student and help them transfer their understanding from one piece to the next. An important aspect of my teaching is the use of images and metaphors to inspire my students. I have a seemingly limitless supply of ideas that I use spontaneously in my teaching, often speaking about the need for pianists to add color and expressiveness to their playing. My students often comment on how these images give them new ideas and directions for their practice and performances. This imaginative approach to teaching helps students develop their artistic and technical skills and fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of music.
Piano Lesson with Dr. Archie Chen
I strongly believe that understanding my students' prior training and experiences is essential to effectively guide their development and tailor instruction to meet their unique needs and goals. By gathering information about their background, I develop a comprehensive inventory of their skills that serves as a starting point for understanding their level of discipline and experience. In working with students, I prioritize their passion for music, character, attitude, and inner discipline, while also considering coordination and intelligence.
In my piano teaching, I focus on the use of the free arm, the transfer of weight, and a strong finger technique. These technical principles can be applied in different ways to accommodate individual differences in physical characteristics and relationship to the keyboard. I have developed my own technical exercises based on those of my teachers and use the circle-of-fifths scale cycle for practicing scales. I believe that having a strong understanding of technical principles is essential for achieving precision, freedom, control, sensitivity, colors, and intensity in music. When beginning to work with a new student, I prioritize establishing a relationship and building a shared vocabulary to effectively communicate technical and interpretive ideas.
Dr. Archie Chen with student
Furthermore, I stress the importance of closely following the composer's indications in order to truly understand and interpret a piece of music. I believe that a thorough understanding of the score is the foundation for a successful and expressive performance. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of the piece and ensures that the performer is being true to the composer's intentions. My research interests encompass Historically Informed Performance (HIP), which leads me to encourage my pupils to conduct their own investigations and explore the historical and cultural context of the music they are performing. This will help them to develop a deeper appreciation for the music and will also enhance their performances.
I strive to provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to piano instruction that goes beyond technical skill and musicianship. My goal is to equip my students with a strong foundation as well as a broad knowledge of piano pedagogy, piano literature, musical traditions, and aesthetics. Additionally, I place a strong emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of music with other subjects such as history, language, mathematics, science, art and contemporary culture. Furthermore, I aim to guide my students in discovering their own passions and career aspirations in the context of a vibrant liberal arts education. Through individual and ensemble performance opportunities, I hope to foster in my students the ability to express themselves musically and to communicate their artistic vision to others. In short, my teaching is about providing a complete education for the student and equipping them with the tools necessary for a lifetime of musical engagement and success as a musician.
When teaching courses like piano pedagogy and piano literature, I avoid simply lecturing to students for an hour. Instead, I use a variety of strategies to actively engage them and promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition to one-on-one meetings, I incorporate techniques such as active listening exercises, small group discussions, and hands-on activities. During lectures, I segment my talks into shorter five-to-seven minute segments, followed by questions that encourage student participation. For example, when discussing the historical evolution of keyboard instruments and its relevance to a student’s performance of an early Beethoven sonata, I ask questions like “In what ways does the decay of tonal sound in early pianofortes differ from that of modern pianos, and how might this impact one's interpretation of the opening chords in Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, op. 13?” This approach helps students connect their knowledge to their performance practice and fosters critical thinking. By adapting my teaching to meet the diverse needs of my students, I aim to create a dynamic learning environment that promotes growth and discovery. In fact, I often describe my approach as “training students to become self-sufficient learners who no longer require the teacher's guidance,” as I aim to guide students on their journey towards self-discovery and independence.
In conclusion, my teaching philosophy is centered on the belief that effective learning requires active student engagement and collaboration. I strive to create a supportive and constructive learning environment that encourages critical thinking and self-reflection. By using a combination of questioning with exemplifiers and guided practice, I aim to help my students develop the skills and techniques they need to become independent and confident learners. Overall, my teaching philosophy is centered on helping students develop critical thinking skills that they can apply to their academic work and their lives beyond the classroom. By providing positive feedback, asking thought-provoking questions, and creating an engaging classroom environment, I aim to empower my students to become lifelong learners who are capable of solving complex problems and making meaningful contributions to society.

The Piano Lineage of Dr. Archie Chen

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My Student Stan O' Beirne in a TV5 Documentary
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Follow me on Spotify
Dr. Archie Chen is a Sony Classical Recording Artist
Archie Chen records for Sony Classical
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