INTERVIEW WITH KATE WATTS
Kate Watts is a music teacher, providing private instruction for a number of instruments. She is also a proud supporter of the arts, and encourages others to engage with learning about creative expression. She has graciously taken the time out of her busy schedule to talk with us today.
Greetings Kate. Would you care to share your background with us? What are your educational strengths and areas of expertise?
I started learning piano at age 5 and started flute lessons at age 10. I studied classical flute through high school and earned a Bachelor of Music degree from George Mason University. I’ve studied with Alice Hammel, Judith Lapple, Eric Hoover, and Gary Schocker over the years. I particularly enjoy Western classical music from the Romantic era, as well as works by more contemporary composers such as Toru Takemitsu and Katherine Hoover. I have participated in masterclasses with such flutists as Emmanuel Pahud. I started teaching when I was about 21 or 22 at a family-owned studio called Music Masters in Vienna, VA. I then began teaching in-home flute and piano lessons in addition to Music Masters and continued to do so when I moved back to Richmond. I enjoy the 1:1 teacher/student setting, and I get to customize my methods to meet each student’s needs. An in-home setting often works well because it’s a familiar setting for the child, which can ease anxiety.
Would you be willing to share with us a little about your personal educational journey? What led you to seek the education and vocation you chose? What advice would you like to offer to those students who wish to go into the same field as you?
My mother played organ and piano, and my father played guitar when I was growing up. They encouraged my brother and I to engage in artistic activities, and I had the privilege of studying music from a young age. I was able to earn chairs in competitive ensembles, attend special summer programs for musicians, perform on NPR, and explore various styles of music through projects such as Richmond Youth Chamber Collegium. I had more peak experiences through music than anyone has the right to have in one life, and that is what led me to choose it as a course of study in college. I wanted to be a studio musician in L.A., but I had an accident in 2008 that redirected my career, and I now teach lessons part-time and work for a rehabilitative services agency. My advice to anyone pursuing a career as a musician is this: develop a strong work and practice ethic from the get-go. Talented musicians are not just born; honing these techniques and learning to live and breathe music takes dedication and time. These are perishable skills, meaning they must be used in order to be maintained or improved upon. I also advise you to get used to taking feedback, especially after auditions or competitions. The criticism may sting at times, but it will almost always make you a better player if you take it and run with it during practice sessions.
What is it about music that appeals to you? How would you describe the importance of this area of education?
Playing music activates many areas of the brain, hones gross and/or fine motor skills depending on the instrument, provides a creative outlet, and it can be therapeutic if presented in the proper context. Playing, writing, and listening to music have a lot of benefits in terms of stress management and motor control. Listening to and playing music can facilitate a higher level of cultural literacy. It’s also a lot of fun!
You also support your local community, for social issues as well as for the arts. As far as education goes, what are some resources you would recommend for others to look for when building their knowledge on these topics?
Here are some excellent and informative links that can start anyone off on these issues.
Last question: What is one thing you want to change about the educational system?
I’m not a classroom teacher, so I can’t speak to the formal education system. However, with private lessons I feel like it’s very easy to fall back on techniques like rote learning (which does have value in the right context) while perhaps putting less emphasis on musicianship and overall creative development. I think private lessons can easily be taught in a way that encourages individual development, cultural literacy, creative expression, and technical knowledge, and I think we as instructors have a responsibility to facilitate that.
Thank you for talking with us today Kate.