Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Music teacher Angela Qiao about her teaching career.
What was your first instrument, and why did you choose it?
Well, my first instrument was the violin, which my parents picked for me because they wanted me to have a hobby and gain an interest in music. I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t the instrument for me and I think my teacher knew that as well because she recommended that I take up piano, which I’ve been loving ever since. I do still play the violin on the side, and I’ve picked up the flute this year.
What are some of your favourite performances you’ve done?
I focused on the pedagogical side of music fairly quickly so I don’t really do that many performances. One of my favourites though was accompanying our year group on piano during the Culwick Competition when I was a student in Alex. The song we had was Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, and it was really fun to get involved and make music with other people because as a pianist it can get a bit lonely practising on your own. I still remember the build-up to the competition, with everyone crammed into one little practice room at lunchtime, and everything getting a bit tense because we weren’t quite ready yet! It was a great experience though, and I loved it. I really do hope that we can bring back Culwick in the next academic year now that restrictions are being lifted.
Why did you begin teaching music, and what makes teaching exciting for you?
I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others and inspire students to develop both their musical and technical skills. With teaching, I also feel like I’m constantly learning myself; when students bring new pieces, I love to research the different interpretations and ideas behind each piece, which is part of why I picked Musicology for my master's. In addition, another aspect that makes teaching exciting is that every lesson is unique in its own way. I’m always thinking of new methods to adapt to each individual to suit their learning styles and goals. I love that I can grow as a musician alongside my students.
How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19? Is there anything you think you’ll keep doing going forward?
Initially, I said to myself, “Oh this is probably not going to work.” Zoom and other tools often have poor audio quality and don’t pick up all the fine details. As we went along though I realised that there’s so much more to work on than just focusing on tonal quality. I started to encourage my students to be more independent in their own learning and giving them a set of questions to ask themselves instead of giving the answers directly. Now they’re developing their listening skills, being critical in their approach to music, and forming practice routines themselves. Moving to online teaching allowed me to explore technology with my students and was an opportunity for personal growth as a teacher.
What is the highlight of your teaching career so far?
There are many highlights of teaching, but I think one has been the opportunity to work with both the Junior School and Senior School this year, working with a wide range of ages and abilities and seeing them overcoming different challenges. It’s really special to be able to see them grow, whether that’s fixing a note or rhythm, or overcoming nerves when it’s their turn to perform at Assembly or preparing for exams. Honestly, their smile says it all, which is really heart-warming to see and to be part of that journey with them. So it makes every single effort worth it!