Teaching Philosophy

When approaching the classroom or often times the studio for instructing and developing creative work with a student, I have to distance myself from my own work to focus and become invested in the project as if I was a collaborator. I only ever want my students’ work to be as fully realized as it can be, both conceptually and technically.

With new audio students, the focus of the classroom is often more technically driven. It is important for students working in any medium to fully understand the tools at their disposal before they should experiment with alternative uses or processes. Coming from the Midwest and experience in heavy manufacturing industries, I look to deliver the work ethic and prowess of a technical industrial scene to my students to utilize in how they approach working creatively. This can be realized through simple organizational tools and workflow to equipment maintenance and respect. This practice of proper technical process with students is also a method of embedding a great respect for process oriented performance and art by creating a sense of value in every step of creation. Additionally, with arts and production students, over the course of the semester it is crucial to foster an investment in the skills and creative practice they have developed by following the progress of the student rather that the final products’ own substantial merit. I am more interested in whether the student’s ability to create meaningful work for themselves has grown. Once certain milestones are reached, there will be a growing interest in the conceptual and historical views of their work.

When considering critiquing student work and engaging with students to discuss work, the language used often becomes a source of importance for most any medium. Within this is the difference and uniqueness between the worlds of sound art and music. Creating a distinction in the minds of my students for these two wonderful worlds of sound is important for continuing a growth in understanding and respect for different approaches to creative development and process. This development of describing one’s own work that is present in my work with students also ties into the importance of authorship that has become more and more interesting to discuss in our digital and sampling worlds. The creation of sound and the implementation of recorded pieces into sound art, film, or theater has a benefit of ownership and authorship that increases the student's’ appreciation and investment in their own work. Which brings another aspect of my own work into the classroom; the synthesizer. Synthesis in sound, music, and video is the development and creation of composition and components that compile to form new ideas and works. Bringing such a powerful creative tool into the classroom delivers, often, a new horizon for recording arts students as they come to explore sonic possibilities that mimic or expand upon the performative aspects of sound and recording. The joy of sonic exploration and performance is apparent in every course I am involved in; students will find fulfillment in their creative projects.

It is even more important to my work with students to harbor a supportive environment that is invested in the mental and creative wellness of the students and myself. Not only as a bridge from myself to a student, but between the individuals as they learn and grow together. As someone who has needed to confront issues of depression and anxiety, I know the issues facing many students at the university level. This is my charge in the classroom and with students, to create an environment where they can develop and express comfortably to process the stresses of their experiences. Art and creation is therapy, and knowing how to utilize creation as a tool for self-help and awareness is knowledge to have students understand like any technical or theoretical practice.

Michael G. Maxwell


 © Michael G. Maxwell