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February 2015 Teacher Spotlight

Mike Iverson
Guitar, Bass, & Ukulele Teacher, Heid Music Appleton

Mike_bwClick for video introduction
Mike has been teaching guitar, bass, and piano since 1998, fresh out of high school.  He did it as a job he could keep while in college, but after he graduated he realized that it was the perfect job for him, so he never stopped.  Mike's learned to teach with different styles depending on the student’s wants and needs, supplementing “normal” lesson material with extras that make it more personal and helpful.  He is a patient teacher, letting the students (and parents) decide how hard to push. If you want to be the best you can be, he will push with all his might, but if you just want a casual, fun experience, then he will happily keep things light and enjoyable.

When and how did you decide you wanted to become a musician?
I enjoyed piano lessons as a kid to some extent, but I didn't really fall in love with the idea of being a musician until I started listening to Queen when I was 14.  The power!  The artistic expression!  And it was around this time when I began learning that music was about making it up and being unique - not about playing the notes exactly as sheet music shows it.   

If you had the time and could pick another instrument to master, what would it be?
I think my next instrument will be the sitar.  Or the banjo.  Or the mandolin.  Maybe the theremin.  I own a theremin!  I really should try to play it more often!

mikeypantsWhat makes you a great teacher?
I am patient.  Really patient.  And I'm comfortable.  I understand that a huge part of a teacher's job is to make the student feel like they're not being judged and that they can make mistakes without feeling bad.  Mistakes are part of learning music and if my students genuinely like me, they'll relax enough to not be shy.
Plus, and this is a biggie, I wasn't a naturally gifted musician from birth.  Some people can just play music with ease.  I couldn't. I had to learn.  I had to learn how to keep a beat, how to listen to other musicians, how to count and read, how to view a scale, etc.  I had to learn it all without an innate ability to just do it.  This means I can understand my students in a way some naturally gifted musicians cannot.
Oh, and I'm funny.  Did you hear the one about the prune?  That's okay. It was pitiful.

Pankratz-3913What advice do you have for a beginning student?
Most of what you must learn at first is boring.  You're trying to make your fingers be precise in a way they can't do, and nothing is going to sound good or be easy until those muscles develop certain skills.  The only way to get those skills is to practice, over and over and over, but this can be boring since you aren't playing cool stuff yet.  But just relax.  Practice switching your chords while watching tv or reading your homework.  Just get your fingers doing it and your brain can be elsewhere.  (But that's just at first.  Soon music needs all your brainpower as well.)

What do you like to do in your spare time? 
I'm learning how to knit lately!  I hope to have a scarf soon!  

I don't watch tv, but I'll sometimes watch old Marx Brothers movies and practice my Groucho impersonations.  :) 

I walk a lot.  Six miles a day.  This is great time for thought and prayer.

Tell us something unique about yourself, unrelated to the musical world:
I am a terrible cook.  I like to eat healthily, but I have no idea how to make anything taste good.  If my students bring me gluten free cookies, they get... well I guess they don't get any special treatment... but I say thank you and think they're extra cool!