Teaching Philosophy

Every student has the capacity to grow as a musician and as a result, grow as an individual.

Some experience the joy of becoming professional performers, teachers, or both. Others pursue other career avenues while still benefitting from the creativity and discipline required to progress on an instrument while developing a lasting love and appreciation of music.

Saxophone Lessons

Team Approach

It’s about what works, not what I want.

There are a few things my students know they will not hear from me. “I want forte at measure 33…” or “play the Ibert for me…” are not phrases I use. It’s not about what I want.  They are not playing for me.  From the beginning, private students and ensemble members know that we are working together toward the same ends.

My job is to determine what techniques, concepts, exercises, etc. will help the student achieve our mutually agreed upon goals, be they technical, musical, or professional.

The student’s job is to be receptive, and give my suggestions a good honest try. In the next lesson, I give objective, honest feedback. But, I also want to hear from the student about what seems to be working, what doesn’t, and where we go from here. They know I am on their side and that I only succeed when they succeed. It’s a team effort.


What motivates you?

The old narrative is that more practice leads to more improvement. That’s generally true but much too simplistic. Practice needs to be motivated. However, all motivations are not created equal. Some students may be driven to complete assignments to earn a better grade. That is not what guides one through a lifetime of musical and personal growth. Instead, it is the satisfaction and fun of improvement that inspires the student and all of us to go another 15 minutes or come back the next day for more fun. Of course, structured practice with specific goals in mind is essential. But, we should always be enjoying the search for what works better. We should celebrate any adjustment or new technique that helps us sound better. Whether it’s the equivalent of a base hit or a home run, a first down or a touchdown, it deserves a joyful cheer!

Sam Fagaly, Professor of Saxophone, EIU


A process built together to create confidence.

After thirty years, I feel more excited and intrigued by teaching than ever. It stays fresh for me because every student is different. Some “tried and true” techniques work, to a degree, with most students. The presentation and emphases, however, must be tailored to each individual. I enjoy the diagnostic process. A technique could be explained in three different ways, (ways that have worked a hundred times), without the student really “getting” it. That doesn’t mean the student is incapable. It could be the fourth, new way of describing it that makes it click. These “eureka” moments keep teaching exciting for the students and me.

My hope for all my students is that they will develop confidence in themselves and their ability to follow a process to achieve an end: not my process, but the process we create together. The goals we work toward could be many different things. Whether the goal is to become a professional recording artist, teacher, or just to get more enjoyment out of playing, the process should teach many lessons that apply to any pursuit in life.

~ Sam Fagaly

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