My instructional practices are a blend of high expectations and crucial support. As one of the mentors through their musical journey, I only have two requirements for my students: that they work smart and are open to learning. Through these principles, students can have both breadth and depth in almost every aspect of their playing, and incredible progress can be made. Regardless of where the student begins, with hard work, an open mind, time management, and proper guidance, these high standards can be achieved. Seeing my students succeed, whether in daily practice, on the concert stage, or in their careers, are some of the most rewarding experiences as an educator.
In addition to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of music, I feel that it is my job as an educator to help guide my students in finding how music fits into their own lives and prepare them for that future. Finding musical relevance is vital in sustaining a long musical life. I approach each student with a holistic approach; they are not just saxophonists– they are people. It is imperative that my students are striving to improve as musicians and as people from week to week – a practice that I model alongside them. Some weeks this progress is not possible, and we also discuss this to normalize failure and foster an environment that supports help-seeking behavior. Furthermore, I encourage students to start thinking about life after graduation almost as soon as they enter school. Resumes, communication etiquette, diverse concert programming, and other professional materials/skills cannot be cultivated too early. The job market is difficult, but there is employment and new ventures out in the world – and I believe with the skills my students have learned, it allows them to succeed in today’s market.
Regardless of the student’s goals in life or major in college, all my students will eventually be a colleague of mine. Therefore, I feel that it is my responsibility as an educator to help them become members of society that I would like to work with; this includes individuals who possess effective communication skills, the ability to collaborate, an inquisitive nature, and a caring spirit. These are the necessary skills to become not only great musicians but global citizens who are able to thrive in our ever-changing world.
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