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The Front Line: Our Teachers
Merriam Music has been blessed and fortunate to have attracted some very talented and passionate educators throughout our history. This amazing collection of musicians is one of the principle strengths behind Merriam’s success, and an enormous emphasis is placed on attracting and training the right type of individual.
Each year, Merriam Music receives literally hundreds of applications from graduates of some of the most esteemed music institutions in the world: Juilliard, Eastman, University of Toronto, Queens, Wilfrid Laurier, Western University, Humber, York, and more. Fewer than 1 in 5 will receive an interview, and less than 1 in 20 will be invited to join Merriam’s elite team.
The effect that a good teacher can have on the learning experience is profound, and matched only in importance by the other three pillars of success: the family, the facilities, and the curriculum. And so, we’re very proud to boast one of the highest staff retention rates in our industry, with the average teacher staying 4.7 years (the industry average is just over 1 year). Additionally, our teachers take part in the greatest number of hours of training each year, at 80. Furthermore, these educators are dedicated to the craft of teaching, and the pursuit of musical instruction is a career path; although musicians who teach ‘on the side’ can be excellent teachers, they don’t provide the kind of long-term vision and dedication necessary to fully realize a student’s potential.
Every one of our certified teachers has received either post-secondary training in music & education, or an extensive body of professional industry experience. Our focus on teachers who are pursuing music education as a career, not just as part-time job, means that our students benefit from long-term thinking, true dedication to the craft of teaching, and the excellent schooling by some of Canada’s finest universities.
Every year, hundreds of teachers apply to be a part of the Merriam experience, and fewer than 5% get accepted. Why so few? Well, training alone doesn’t make a great teacher, nor does excellent performance ability. To be a Merriam teacher, you must possess a unique blend of musicality, compassion, organization, long-term focus, and performance ability. Our teachers act as role models, facilitators, coaches, and most importantly, partners in you or your child’s success.
North America’s universities and colleges certainly do a fantastic job of preparing future educators for their positions. However, Merriam’s formula is unique and complex. In order for the teacher to play their critical part in the overall success of our teaching formula, they must go through a rigorous training regime before they ever set foot inside our classrooms. In fact, most new teachers are hired in May and June, and won’t see the inside of a classroom until early September. During this time, they’ll attend various workshops, seminars, training courses, evaluations, and more – all to ensure that the Keyfest formula is delivered at our high standards.
Our teachers stay with us longer than any other private music teaching facility in Canada. They consistently tell us, year after year, why that is:
- we offer full-time salaried employment, so that teachers can build a life and a career with us
- our mission is authentic: unleashing the power of music for all who want it
- our facilities allow for creative and professional growth for them as both musicians and educators
- our curriculum (Keyfest) works, and generates unparalleled success with students of all ages and levels
Introduction to Music Teachers at Merriam School of Music
Merriam School of Music offers our 3000 + students the opportunity to study music with highly qualified, proven, and passionate teachers. Many hail from the top music universities in North America, and all have demonstrated a clear commitment to the craft of educating.
A school can have the very best facilities, a proven curriculum, and top level instruments – but none of it comes alive without a great teacher. When a child engages with a teacher, forms that special relationship, and gets challenged and motivated to achieve amazing things…that’s when the whole formula comes together.
Of all the initiatives we take on every year here at the Merriam School of Music, seeking out new teachers and retraining our existing team is the most important one. Without the right people in our classrooms, much of the rest of our efforts would be for not.
We receive over 200 teacher applicants every year, and we’re very honored to be the only private music school in Canada to be invited to go directly into the campuses of 4 major music universities to recruit teachers. But after literally hundreds of qualified teachers have applied, only 10-15 will be added to our roster each year.
Merriam School of Music Teacher Requirements
Our teachers all have several things in common, and it’s the same blend that we seek out in our new teachers.
A sincere interest in teaching as a profession, not a part-time job while they seek other work
Musicians often turn to teaching to supplement their incomes. We encourage and welcome this. However, there are also times when musicians are primarily interested in a performing career, and see teaching as a flexible way to add income without the rigidity of a “regular” job. That’s why we seek out people who are interested in having teaching in their lives not purely out of necessity, but because they enjoy the connection with students and the challenge of becoming a great educator.
Making their students’ experience, and their time at our school, a top priority
A student’s experience is always going to be heightened when a teacher invests into them – with time, efforts, and going the extra mile. Merriam School of Music is full of teachers who look for ways to go the extra mile. Whether that’s spending extra time explaining an assignment or concept to a parent, or helping someone with a different learning style fully understand the lesson material. And most of all, we seek teachers who are genuinely excited at seeing their student’s progress and succeed. After all, it’s only when a teacher can get genuinely excited that their students will share in it.
Real-life, ongoing musical experience / performance
One of the best tools a music teacher has to keep their students inspired and engaged is to connect their lesson work with a specific inspiration or aspiration. When students see their own teachers perform, or the teacher knows how to connect today’s music or trends with the lesson material, the student sees the whole effort as being entirely relevant and connected with other parts of their life.
A commitment to the Merriam Curriculum and its principles of teaching music in a comprehensive way, rather than simple memorization
The Merriam Curriculum is uncommon, but it is hardly revolutionary. It’s the same material that is taught in music universities the world over. What makes it so unique isn’t the content – it’s that it’s been meticulously crafted to deliver it to students as young as 4. Teachers who are only familiar with the approach of rote learning (memorization and regurgitation), are often shocked at what we require of our teachers, or the incredible results we see in our students.
Because the approach is almost completely unheard of for a community music school, we hardly expect applicants to already have the training and philosophy in place when they join Merriam. But they do need to be excited by it, and open to it. After three decades, the statistics can’t be ignored: learning music as a comprehensive language, in an immersive community setting, is the most effective way to teach.
Here is a selection of our current teaching staff – we invite you to read over their backgrounds and their qualifications, and see for yourself what incredible individuals make up the Merriam School of Music.
Why Merriam School of Music?
Watch this discussion with selected members of the Merriam School of Music’s teaching staff, about using musical experience to make a difference in people’s’ lives. Discussions with Mike Siracusa (drummer / teacher), Len Feldman (pianist, theory, teacher), Mary Ficzere (Director of Enriched Piano Studies), Linda Morgan (clinician, teacher, pianist), Brian DeLima (jazz pianist, teacher) and more.
Many of Merriam School of Music’s teachers have been with the school for 10 or more years, and this video compiles a series of interviews with a few of the senior members of the music school.
Merriam School of Music has gained a reputation within the musical academic community for developing and implementing high-level curriculum and teaching methods.The positive effects on our students has been clearly tracked and proven. And over the last 10 years, piano students from Merriam’s Enriched and Group Piano programs have shown superior progress and retention of skill when compared with other community music programs.
Watch as we interview four university music pedagogists about their impressions and experiences with the Merriam School of Music, and what they see as the differences between us and other professional music schools.
PASSION TO EDUCATE
We interview our own music teachers as they discusses what fuels their passion for sharing the world of music with their students. Whether it be watching student’s progress throughout their musical life, or hearing about how their musical experience has benefited them in other areas of life, or seeing students become teachers themselves, the passion that our teachers show towards their musical craft is one of the most important elements of the Merriam School of Music’s success.