Instructor of Drumset
How long have you been teaching?
I am fairly new to field of teaching and have been employed with Opus for about two years now.
Which Opus Music Academy locations do you work? Do you have your own studio? If so, where is it located? Do you offer in-home lessons?
I do not have my own studio, but I do offer lessons in-home and at Opus Studios in New Hope and Robbinsdale.
What do you teach? Anything else you teach?
I teach drum set with an emphasis on the drummer’s role in a band setting.
What is your studio story? How did you get to where you are now?
Inspired by Mick Fleetwood and Lars Ulrich, I got my first drum set and took my first lessons at the age of 16. After a year or so of lessons, I became self-taught and began playing in a variety of local MN based bands. Music took a backseat to “real life” in my 20’s, but always remained a strong force in my life. In my early 30’s I made a hard return to music and began studying the drums once again, with an adult perspective and a drive to become more proficient at the instrument I love.
One day I realized that I had made enough mistakes and enough progress as a musician that I might be able to impart some useful wisdom onto others who were inspired to pick up the sticks! I was fortunate enough to be able to join Kathy and Opus on their mission to bring music to everyone!
What is one thing you think you do really well as a teacher?
I think my adaptability is one of my greatest strengths. Everyone has different goals, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. I like approaching the entire process as a grey area and letting the students carve their own path within that area. I only try to provide them the tools and guidance that I think will be most effective in helping them navigate their own personal learning curve, and I think my ability to be flexible in that regard is one of my biggest assets as an instructor.
What is one thing you really struggle with as a teacher?
Asking for help. Haha! I think many of us have been conditioned to feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in fact the exact opposite is true. It takes great strength to ask for help. As a teacher, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I need to know EVERYTHING,” and feeling like we must be an island unto ourselves. But nobody can do it alone, nobody should do it alone, and I believe you do yourself disservice by not enlisting the help of your community and your peers at every opportunity. I sometimes have a tendency to forget all that and go rogue lone wolf, simply out of a habit of doing so.
What do you do to retain your students?
I simply try to always remain authentic and genuine, and try to engage everyone on a human level. I remain upbeat and positive in the face of challenges and always reinforce the fact that the reason we do this is because it’s FUN! I believe engaging on a field of mutual respect, regardless of age, talent, skill level, or any other factors, goes a long way towards building lasting relationships with students.
What is your niche? What sets you apart from other teachers?
Haha, I like to think that I offer a bit of the “Grizzled Road Veteran” vibe that you can’t always find just anywhere. I know that as an aspiring drummer, that was a major quality that I was drawn to in my first drum instructor, and what endeared me to him. He was a guy who you could tell at a glance was a student of “The School of Hard Knocks,” a.k.a. someone driven perhaps more by experience than by “conventional” wisdom, and who might be able to offer some insights that might otherwise be inaccessible. I would hope that future aspiring drummers would be able to identify that quality in me at glance, and might be drawn to it, the way I once was as a beginning learner.
What is your favorite band, artist, or composer? Why?
My “holy trinity” of bands has always been Led Zeppelin, Tool, and Pink Floyd. Mostly for the same reasons. Besides the fact that they all have legendary drummers behind the kit! They all are the epitome of masterful musicians crafting at the highest level. The writing, performing, and musicianship aspects are all executed at expert levels, and they all craft very dynamic music that really takes you on an immersive journey. Their songs demand active listening, they are complex yet still accessible to a large audience, and they really create an atmosphere that is uniquely their own. And in the end, all three groups, like the Beatles before them, are just four guys making a whole lot more noise than they have any right to be making! And I, for one, can’t get enough of it.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People are usually to surprised when I tell them I was on the Judge Judy show! It was a musically related case. We had a house fire 2003, and a kid who I was in a band with at the time was keeping his guitar and amp at my house when the fire happened. His mother tried to take us to small claims court over the cost of the destroyed equipment. The producers of Judge Judy found the case and flew us out to L.A. to be on the show. It was a very
short filming, Judge Judy basically said the case was ridiculous and ruled in our favor in what felt like record time!
Let’s say you’re having coffee with a brand-new teacher. What’s one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you started.?
Well, as a newer teacher myself, I’m certainly glad of any advice offered by more experienced teachers! But the best advice I ever got was from the man who taught me how to deal poker, and his advice transcends the game into pretty much all aspects of life, and that advice was, “It doesn’t matter, until it matters.” Basically he was saying, it’s okay to make mistakes, and try not to sweat the little things. You usually get the choice in how important or unimportant a mistake is by how you react to it. Usually, if you don’t make a big deal out of it or draw attention to it, it’s not going make a difference in the big picture. If you focus in on it, then suddenly it matters, because you’ve decided to make it matter. So I would try to pass along that little tidbit of advice, because it was a difference maker for me.
Let’s say you’re visiting with a teacher who is feeling burned out. What advice would you give to them to give life to their studio?
I would say that burnout can happen to anyone, in any situation, no matter how much you may love what you do. I would say, if you were experiencing burnout as a teacher, perhaps try flipping the script and becoming a student again! Learn a new skill or a new instrument. Take yourself out of the situation and try gain a new perspective. Try to remember what it was about teaching that you loved enough in the first place to pursue it as a career. And of course, it’s always okay to just take a break. Sometimes we all just need a little breathing room. We can get overwhelmed and it can feel like we’ve reached the end of our rope. Sometimes all you need is just a quick rest to recharge your batteries.
We’ve all had that one student or parent that drives us crazy. What do you do with that student or family?
Haha, we all have our patience tested sometimes. For my own part, I just try to remember that being “THAT” student or parent is usually motivated from a good place, it just manifests in an unproductive way. But more often than not, I think it is born from a desire to see the student succeed. I would try to re-focus that energy into something more productive, and remind the student or parent, “We’re all on the same team. We all want the same thing, and we all need to be working together toward the same goals, or we’re not going to get to where we’re all trying to go.” As long as people are reasonable, I feel solutions can be found to most disagreements.
What is your craziest idea? What is something you would do if money, time, and space weren’t an issue?
I think I would love to move to Japan, and attempt to immerse myself into their culture and philosophy for as long as I possibly could. I’ve always found the culture there fascinating and would love to experience it firsthand.
If you weren’t a music instructor, what else would you do with your life?
Possibly carpentry, or maybe architecture. I’ve recently discovered an appreciation for both, and the overall construction and design of structures in general. They are creative and artistic outlets that have practical applications. Much like music!
Want to learn more about Ben? Email us to find out more, and maybe set up your first free trial lesson!