Meet the Opus

Featured Teacher!


Robert Haugen

Clarinet, Saxophone, Oboe

Check out Robert’s Profile!

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching since 2002. 


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 teach at the Opus studios in Plymouth, Robbinsdale and St. Louis Park. I also have a studio at my home in Savage. 


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

I started teaching privately during college. I graduated with a degree in clarinet performance and taught privately for a year, when I decided to go to law school. I taught private lessons during law school to pay for it, and ended up with a long career as a trial lawyer. During those years I pursued my love of music with the Metropolitan Symphony as co-principal clarinetist, and through my wife’s career as a composer. After 25 years as a lawyer, health problems forced me to retire from law and I decided to return to teaching music.


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

Since teaching is communicating, effective communication is essential. I believe that the human connections you have with your student – trust, respect, honesty, caring – enhance communication. I think that I am very good at establishing the rapport it takes to be understood by my students and to produce impactful learning.


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

I used to struggle with frustration when I was younger. I learned that If I got frustrated, my student would pick up on it and become frustrated – leaving us both unable to do well. Now, I always remind myself that good teaching isn’t about how I feel, it’s about how my student feels, that to be a professional requires the focus and self-control to do and be whatever my student needs.


What do you do to retain your students?

I do everything I can to make learning to play an instrument meaningful to them. I find out what they want to do, what their goals are, and tailor my teaching to help them achieve them. I also help them make connections between playing an instrument and what they already know and have done in other areas of their lives. The skills required to practice and play an instrument apply to nearly everything, so their skills from other activities can help them learn to play an instrument.


Share a funny music story:

Right after college I was teaching at Schmitt Music, and had a beginning saxophone student who had just gotten his sax a few minutes before. So, in a half hour I had to show him how to assemble the sax, adjust the reed and ligature, sit properly, adjust the neck strap, place his fingers correctly, and teach him to read notes and count music. It was very fast-paced! The next week he came in and I asked how the sax was going while he was busy assembling it. He said he was having trouble with squeaking. I found the problem immediately – he had been playing all week with the mouthpiece upside down!


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

I guess my niche is that I don’t really have one. I’ll teach any style. I have classical and jazz training from childhood. My father and mentor was a professional jazz and classical musician and renowned teacher of both. My wife is a classical composer, violinist and pianist. I have enjoyed a lifetime of performing as a classical soloist, and playing with symphony orchestras, concert bands, jazz bands, jazz combos, and a wide variety of classical chamber ensembles. I enjoy teaching any student who wants to learn – beginner through college, 4th grader to adult.


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

There are so many great performers over so many years (yes, I am older) that I enjoy, that choosing a favorite is impossible. Glenn Gould, Itzhak Perlman, Yoyo Ma, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Charlie Parker, Buddy DeFranco, Miles Davis, the Beatles, to name a few – the list is endless. In a way, not having a favorite goes with keeping an open mind to anything or anyone else who may come along.


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

I was surprised myself to discover that I love to read about history. I have a real need to understand how and why things are the way that they are in the world, and reading history interpreted by great historians is a bottomless revelation.


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?

Find a way to love and respect all of your students, no matter how hard some may make it. Remember that their parents are entrusting you with the most important thing in their lives, so teaching their child is a privilege. Life is hard for everyone. Their flaws and challenges aren’t their fault. Your job is to make things better and smoother for them through compassion and understanding. The joy of teaching for me is not just what my students are able to accomplish, it is what I share with them and what they share with 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 probably wouldn’t give advice, but just try to listen and understand.



What do you do to inspire your students?

I try to be the kind of teacher I would have wanted – kind, patient, humorous, and always positive. I think that most students are weighed down to a degree by their self-perceptions, by social media, by any number of negatives in their lives in general. If I can give them more confidence, a sense of their true potential, even just lift their spirits a bit at each lesson, the cumulative effect over time is noticeable.


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

It would be cool to develop a mass following on the internet as a blogger. I would try to convince people that their opinions are only worth the mental effort, knowledge and experience that backs them up, and that we should all listen more and talk less. And, that the world would be a better place if we all had a Hippocratic-like oath in mind before we speak – “First, do no harm.”

I would also like to spend time in all of the National Parks in the US, and visit most of the countries in the world.


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

See above. I would become an artist and take up painting. I also would design and build an affordable and architecturally pleasing net-zero house.


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

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