Meet the Opus

Featured Teacher!

 Alex Heck

Trombone, Trumpet, French Horn, Euphonium, Baritone, Tuba

Check out Alex’s Profile!

How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching in College during the summers at my high school as I realized there were a lot of brass specific concepts that were being missed in my high school education that I would have wished I could have learned earlier in life. So I really started teaching 10 years ago. My first official position as a private lesson teacher after college was at Schmitt Music 5 years ago. I have always loved teaching music and brass, and I love that I get the opportunity to work with brass students so much throughout my week. 

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 work at the Plymouth and St. Louis Park locations. I also teach at Schmitt Music in Bloomington and offer online and in-home options as well (my home is not available currently).

What instruments do you teach? Anything else you teach?

My primary instrument is the trombone. I teach every brass instrument from as low as Tuba to as high as Trumpet and even French Horn. This also includes specialty brass instruments like bass trombone, mellophone, and more. I try to include music theory, composition, music history, jazz and classical, as well as popular genres based on students interests and strengths. I once taught a student how to play the trombone in a rock band so I am willing to help outside of these skills as well.

What is your studio story? How did you get to where you are now?

When I was in college I realized my love for brass instruments. I had played tuba, bass trombone, tenor trombone, and euphonium in different ensembles and pit orchestras, and realized the relationship between the way brass instruments work. Since then I have used my love of brass to share fundamentals of brass with all my students and have tried to instill a love for music that uses science, language, math, history, and more to help with an understanding of music and brass. 

What is one thing you think you do really well as a teacher?

With every student that comes into my room I remember that I was also once a student that struggled with my instrument. I try to always meet every student where they are at regardless of ability level and try to share a love for music with them that will allow them to thrive and grow as a person, musician, and brass player.

What is one thing you really struggle with as a teacher?

I have met other teachers that sometimes teach through anger in the form of yelling and scolding, high expectations, award seeking, and perfectionism. My own personal approach is to be patient and allow the student to grow at the rate they are ready. This can cause some students to take advantage of the fact that they feel they don’t need to practice and can make it difficult when students resist the importance of practice. Even though this path has some amount of extra difficulty I find it much more important as I often see students change their conception of how fun music can be. Many professional musicians have quit music when they discover they don’t enjoy the requirement of the music industry to be holding themselves to high standards. I work with my students so that their mental health doesn’t hold them to the same unhealthy standards. I find that they can achieve the same standards on their own terms with a smile on their face and without comparing themselves to the achievements of others.

 

What do you do to retain your students?

I’m not concerned with retaining students. I am concerned with making music fun enough for people to be able to be able to grow themselves as people. Music is an invaluable resource and students are not always going to see that as hard as I can try. But hopefully if they stop playing their instrument they will at least have learned how much they enjoy listening to music, that they will have learned how to help themselves grow as a person, and that they will not stop creating just because they stopped music. They could be making art, playing a different instrument, or making anything that makes their life more enjoyable.

 

Usually the few students that quit seem to have a lot of other struggles going on in their life at home or at school. If you want to help support their interest in music I recommend supporting them at home to the best of your ability as well.

 

Share a funny music story:

With some of my students I have had them do mock performances in lessons to prepare for their performances. I have them envision a fake audience and pretend they are really performing. One of my students responded to this by saying “I’m going to pretend the fake audience is full of goats.” Now I have a piece of paper with a goat audience to make the performance preparation more fun for a lot of students that struggle with stage fright.

 

What is your niche? What sets you apart from other teachers?

I feel my brass expertise is much more solid than many of my peers. Just as an example many teachers think that the trombone has 7 positions, which is an easier starting point for beginners but the reality is that in order to tune properly every octave of every note uses different precise tuning positions and those tuning concepts don’t just apply to the trombone, but to every brass instrument. This is just one example of how I feel my brass expertise sets me apart from other teachers.

 

What is your favorite band, artist, or composer? Why?

My favorite band is actually Alice in Chains is a grunge band from the 80s. Their lead singer struggled with drug addiction to the point where they unfortunately overdosed. You can really feel the struggle in the lyrics and the music they wrote. While I can’t relate to the drug addiction issue, thankfully, the soul that comes out of the music I think is very unique. My second favorite would be anything composed by Sergei Prokofiev for his use of really clashing harmonies. I really enjoy clashing harmonies.

 

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I love Doctor Who. Maybe not a surprise necessarily to those who have seen it but I think it’s severely unknown and it’s absolutely one of my favorite shows.

 

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?

I would have wished they talked to me about getting therapy sooner. I have ADHD and my organizational skills have gone through the roof since I was diagnosed with that. That’s probably a specific one to me but I recommend anyone go through therapy. It makes such a difference in a person’s life. A lot of the teachers I’ve met consistently tell me they have students they feel are undiagnosed and I hope that more parents will have their children get checked as well.

 

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?

Get therapy if you can. If you can’t try to start to find new ways to organize things to make it easier. Maybe ease up on the number of things you are doing in your life. And most importantly – TAKE A DAY OFF. I promise you can afford it after you see how it opens up your life in other ways.

 

What do you do to inspire your students?

Once every other month I send videos and songs for my students to listen to that involve their instruments. This is a big part of inspiration is having experiences that help you discover something new and exciting about your instrument. Every instrument can really create a magical sound if you can just think of how. Seeing others create that magic is such an important part of this and I try to help them find that magic in themselves as well.

 

What is your craziest idea? What is something you would do if money, time, and space weren’t an issue?

An instrumentation that I haven’t seen that I think would really work well is a singer, electric bass, electric guitar, trombone, bass trombone, alto trombone, drumset, piano, and clarinet and I really want to write for that instrumentation but it doesn’t exist. If I had all the time in the world I would learn enough of those instruments so I could make that a reality.

 

If you weren’t a music instructor, what else would you do with your life?

I think I would still be creating. Video games, books, art. Really anything I can find to explore those things. I really do like music a lot though so I’m living the life I want to live in so many ways.

 

Want to learn more about Alex? Email us to find out more and to set up a free trial lesson!

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