February Teacher Spotlight: Jason Powell

This month we are spreading our wings to California. We will be featuring Jason Powell. Jason earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education in classical guitar with a minor in percussion from the University of Redlands in 2007, his Master's Degree from Boston University in Music Education in 2011, and his Doctorate in Educational Justice and Leadership from the University of Redlands in 2015. In addition to all of these studies, Jason has also completed graduate course work at Florida State, Ohio State, Harmony College, and Chapman University, as well as, specialty studies in string pedagogy, Kodaly Methods, and the California credentialing to teach Music A.P. Theory.

Now, Jason is the Director of Strings at Palm Springs High School (PSHS), and remains an active musician in the community. He performs with the Coachella Valley Symphony (violin II), the Joshua Tree Phil-Harmonic (violin II), the Desert Chamber Orchestra (violin II), and the Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church (guitar & percussion). He also performs in the yearly PSHS musicals. Additionally, he teaches the Beginning Violin class at Raymond Cree Middle School, as well as helps with percussion and is an Adjunct Professor with National University.

Along with his impressive background, he has had the privilege of world travels under the baton of music performance and education. He is a published author of the book, "From Terror to Freedom - Empowering the Victim." And he's been the recipient of several awards including Outstanding Teacher at Palm Springs High School (2012), an induction in to the C.O.D. Hall of Fame as Alumni of the Year (College of the Desert 2012), and the Rotary-Alumni award for Excellence in Instrumental Performance (2004). Jason also served as the conductor of the Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony in 2012.

Jason is an excellent teacher and musician. If you'd like to learn more about him, continue to read our interview with him below.

What city do you currently teach in?

"Palm Springs, California"

What instruments do you play/ teach?

"I play Classical Guitar, Percussion, and Violin. I teach Orchestral Strings, Symphonic Orchestra, Classical Guitar, A.P. Music Theory, History of Rock and Roll, and Music History."

How did your career in music get started?

"Music literally saved my life. I grew up in the absolute worst possible scenario, but found liberation through music... And so I have no choice but to teach music."

What’s your favorite song to play?

"As a late starter (I started playing guitar in high school, but took my first class and lesson in college), I have no favorites. I love all music! Because I am still relatively new to music, I have not gotten bored with any particular styles yet, and so really don’t have any “most loved” or “most hated” pieces."

What other hobbies besides music do you have?

"Playing with my children (8 & 9 years old), wood-working, and quading."

What has been your favorite moment as a teacher?

"I know it is cheesy, but when students bring gifts before the holidays or for my birthday… I LOVE it! Not because of the gift, but because it shows me that I have made such an impact on the student that they go out of their way to use their own time to think of me, to make me a gift or card, or to buy me something. It is easy for a student to say thank you, or to share the impact you have had on them… but it is a whole new level when they give up their own time and or money."

What do you find to be the best motivator for students?

"Passion! When a student sees their director completely full of passion… they jump at the opportunity to be part. Students will do whatever it takes to be apart of something amazing… IF there is passion."

What are your future goals as a musician and teacher?

"I want to teach music until I retire. I LOVE my job! My goal is to never become one of those old, grumpy teachers. I want to continue playing in professional orchestras, and continue changing young lives through music."

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

"Learn from everyone possible. Learn the things you don’t want to learn. You may not enjoy jazz, or country, or bluegrass, or Mariachi, or whatever... but you should still learn it anyways. Music is a language, the more you know about any and all styles, the better you will be and more useful you can become in the world of music. Also, remember that there is no wrong way to teach. Steal every trick possible from anyone you can."

Anything else you'd like to say?

"If you look at a person for what they are, that is what they will remain.  But if you look at a person for what they could be, that is what they will become."
Courtney Kappa