My goal as an educator is to equip my students with the skills to be able to think critically about their playing, to diagnose any problems, and to solve them - all on their own. These are skills that are not only fundamental to becoming a musician but also essential for a successful life.
I have extremely high standards for my students. These standards are met with very clear expectations and guidance along the way. I only have two requirements for my students: that they work hard and are open to learning. With these two characteristics, incredible progress can be made; and regardless of where the student begins, with hard work, an open mind, and proper guidance, these high standards can be achieved.
Every student's lesson will be individually tailored. I am not interested in producing students that are exact copies of me. I want every student to find his or her own musical voice. Students will be exposed to a wide variety of music where sound and musical expression are top priorities. The study of fundamentals is the core of every lesson and will be supplemented with necessary exercises, etudes, and repertoire.
In addition to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of music, I feel that is it is my job as an educator to help guide my students in finding how music fits into his or her own life and prepare them for that future. Finding this musical relevance is vital in sustaining a long musical life. I try my best to understand the “whole” student. My students aren’t just saxophonists – they’re people. It is imperative that my students are constantly improving as a musician and a person from week to week. I will model this improvement on a weekly basis along side them. It is unrealistic to have these expectations for my students and not hold myself to the same standards.
I maintain an independent studio of saxophonists; where my students have placed in national and regional competitions and have gained admittance to well-respected college music programs. Many of my students have not necessarily chosen music as their profession but are still lifetime musicians!
Regardless of the student’s goals in life or major in college, all of my students will go out into the world and be a colleague of mine. Therefore, it is my duty to help them become members of society that I would like to work with; this includes individuals who possess excellent communication skills, ability to collaborate, an inquisitive nature, and a caring spirit. Furthermore, I begin students thinking about life after school almost as soon as they enter school. Resumes, communication etiquette, concert programming, and other professional materials/skill cannot be cultivated too early. The job market is difficult, but there are jobs and new ventures out there – and I believe they are all for my students!
Over the years I have developed a toolbox full of teaching techniques for any student at any level of study. Here I am showing a student in Seoul, South Korea how to increase his air support by playing against a wall.
Teaching a young saxophonist in Shenzhen, China about proper reed placement.
"Nathan Mertens is an exceptionally talented saxophonist and pedagogue. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with him on projects ranging from beginner saxophone workshops to masterclasses featuring advanced students. Not only is he comfortable and incredibly capable with all ages of students, he has the unique ability to make those around him laugh while they learn key components of mastering the saxophone. His kindness, sense of humor, willingness to help in team efforts, expertise, and sheer love of the instrument make him an exceptional instructor."
- Elizabeth Rosinbum, Private Saxophone Instructor and Co-founder of Saxophone Academy Austin
"Nathan Mertens has shepherded my talented, yet mercurial 11 year old into the world of saxophone. My son has always shown musical ability, but adamantly refused lessons. When he decided to play saxophone I was hesitant for him to commit, but Nathan has kept him interested and going. He has taken all of my son's concerns seriously and had positive solutions for all of them. After 7 months, we're getting to listen to some pretty decent pieces, and my son who is entering 6th grade was placed in 7th grade band! Nathan is patient, punctual, positive, passionate about saxophone, and a wonderful teacher. We strongly recommend him!"
- Parent of 6th grader at Kealing Middle School - Austin, Texas
"Nathan is by far the best private teacher I have ever dealt with at Fulmore Middle School. His students love him, he is always on time, communicates with parents about lesson times and payments regularly, consistently has make-up lessons if necessary so that his students rarely miss their weekly lesson, and most importantly - his students' playing abilities soar! His commitment to his teaching studio and to the Fulmore Band is second to none. Nathan shares teaching techniques with the Fulmore staff and has a great attitude, personality and sense of humor."
- Beverly Michelson, Assistant Band Director, Fulmore Middle School - AISD
"With his teaching and guidance, I was accepted into the Nebraska All-State Band 3 years in a row. Now a freshman in college, I am participating in the marching band and the top Symphonic Wind Ensemble at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I truly believe that without having taken private lessons from Nathan, I would not be where I am today."
- Kyla Buettner, Former student