For this month’s Teacher Feature, we’d like to introduce you to one of our newer teachers, Michael S. He’s sure to impress you with his down-to-earth nature, wonderful teaching ability, eclectic taste in music, and wide variety of instruments he’s able to play! We know he’ll bring out the best in our students, and we’re excited to pair more of them with him.
MM: It looks like you play a number of instruments! What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you played them? Do you have a favorite?
MS: I play guitar, bass guitar, violin, drums, and piano. I started taking violin lessons when I was 8 and loved the challenge of learning an instrument. When I was 13 my violin teacher moved, and I wasn’t able to continue with lessons, so I started teaching myself bass guitar. I liked the different styles of music I could learn on bass guitar, and was starting to become more interested in songwriting, so I started teaching myself acoustic guitar when I was about 14. I It seemed that every instrument I learned provided new exposure to different styles of music, and presented opportunities to play with new people. After guitar I started learning drums and piano from members of different groups I was performing with.
MM: Who has inspired you musically?
MS: I try to learn from any kind of music that I listen to. I like trying to mimic sounds I hear in songs, with instruments that aren’t typically used in that way. For instance, I have taken to tuning my acoustic guitar’s low E string down 2 or 3 steps and then using a capo to bring the rest of the strings up a few steps. The result is a deep bass sound, and I first did it trying to mimic the bass you hear in hip-hop songs. It adds a cool dynamic to the softer acoustic music that I usually play. Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Damien Rice, Pink Floyd, and The National are just a few of my all time favorites.
MS: I love them all! I am a little picky about what I like, but I can always find at least one artist in any genre that I enjoy listening to, and I love hearing new bands and artists. That being said, folk, classical, rock, metal, and hip-hop will always have a special place in my heart.
MM: What are you current musical projects?
MS: I have been performing my own indie/folk project for a few years, and am currently working on my first album!
MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?
MS: Finding the time is tough! So I get really excited when I have a spare hour to practice and write, and I try to make sure I have a little time every day. I like to bounce back and forth between learning songs and making up new stuff. I think that the most important thing when encouraging students to practice is having them practice music that they genuinely like to listen to. I think practicing becomes less of a chore and more of a nice break from the day when you get to play and learn your favorite tunes.
MM: If you were stranded on an island and could only have one album with you, what would it be?
MS: This is the hardest question by far! Come On Feel The Illinoise, by Sufjan Stevens would be one of my first choices for sure. Its orchestration is incredible, and every time I listen to it I hear something new. Also it has 22 tracks, so there is plenty to listen to.