Alec Powell has been fascinated by sound for as long as he can remember.
“I was listening to someone play the piano and my 4-year-old brain was trying to come home and make those sounds — it’s been forever,” said Powell, a choir teacher at Mountain Ridge Junior High School in Highland. .
This fascination compelled him to abandon his original path of becoming a mechanical engineer in college, opting instead for a career in music.
“I needed some type of outlet, so I thought I’d take a choir class,” Powell said. His freshman year of college class was the first time he took an organized choir class.
After taking her, Powell was in love. So much so that he did not declare a major. So much for engineering.
“Nothing sparks joy like music does, I thought I wanted to chase that joy away for as long as possible.” —Alec Powell
Powell saw that the music department had a scholarship available. He applied for the scholarship – and got it – setting his musical journey in motion.
“I just fell into it. Nothing sparks joy like music does. I thought I wanted to chase that joy away for as long as possible,” he said of becoming a music teacher. “I like the freedom that education allows as a musician. There is always the procedural aspect of being a teacher, but it also gives me a lot of freedom to express myself.
Powell certainly capitalized on that freedom. He followed his passion for music to the crescendo which was named Yamaha’s 40 Under 40sa list recognizing outstanding music teachers under the age of 40 who are making a difference by developing and strengthening their music programs.
Yamaha has recognized teachers across the country who possess characteristics of action, courage, creativity and growth.
David Mower has been the principal of Mountain Ridge Junior High for just one year, but said Powell’s impact on the school and the students he teaches is evident.
“Mr. Powell, he’s kind of the best of all worlds you expect from a teacher,” Mower said. , they like to talk to Mr. Powell for his advice, I can’t say enough good things about him.
Powell discovered he had been named to the prestigious list during a test and said it “didn’t seem real”.
He was nominated for the list after talking about it with Katy Bigham, a friend and English teacher at Mountain Ridge Junior High.
“I was reading some of the profiles because they had them from last year and I was like, ‘You know, he’s a really good candidate for this award,'” Bigham said.
Bigham nominated him for the list but didn’t think his nomination would get much attention due to the large number of submissions Yamaha received. Yet when she found out that Powell had been named to the list, she wasn’t surprised.
“I was really thrilled that he won the award because he deserved it so much,” she said.
As someone working under the same roof as Powell, Bigham said she sees examples of his excellence every day.
“One of his No. 1 strengths is connection. Connecting with students is so amazing,” Bigham said, noting the difficulty that comes with teaching middle schoolers.
“He teaches over 300 students, but he memorizes their names and he knows what they like, what they don’t like and he knows what’s going on with them when it comes to extracurricular activities. But he also checks in with them,” she said. “He’ll check out a Chromebook cart that we can get from school and he’ll do a Google check-in and they can explain how they feel. He’s been doing this his whole career, and he changes his teaching based on how his students are and where they are.
Despite this great achievement, Powell paid tribute to the many people who influenced him throughout his musical journey.
“This is just a highlight and a tribute to all the amazing educators here,” he said. “I went to school here and had amazing music teachers growing up. I learned from all of them and I’m kind of a hodgepodge of everything I’ve had so far. now.
In the classroom, it is evident that Powell’s infatuation with music is not just felt, but embraced by the students he teaches. One could easily mistake Mountain Ridge Junior High’s group of concert singers for a much better choir than is typically found at the junior high level. They sound great and they also have the accolades to back it up.
“We’ve done a lot this year in terms of musical excellence,” Powell said.
Its singers have performed at the Junior High Honors Choir as well as the Utah Chapter of the American Association of Choral Directors fall conference.
“Every time (the) band performs, we get positive feedback. People who aren’t even involved with the school — they’re from Salt Lake or Ogden — they’ve seen the choir and they see their interaction and it strikes them as someone who’s positive with the kids,” said said Mower. .
When asked about his teaching style, “chaotically good” came to Powell’s mind.
“Structure makes sense and structure (is) necessary, but I’m not stupid knowing that these are middle schoolers and 70 minutes is a long time to be anywhere, just to work – that’s rigorous,” Powell said.
To combat this rigor, Powell embodied a playful, yet pragmatic style that did not stifle the creativity or personality of his students.
“I like to shake things up. I like not feeling (that) I’m so rigid (that) it makes class not fun,” Powell said.
His students no doubt feel supported too. At one point during a recent practice, Powell looked at the section he was working with and said, “Sing along with the confidence I have in you.”
At the end of the day (or the gig), Powell’s goal is not to make phenomenal musicians, but phenomenal human beings.
“I always want them to leave better than when they came in,” Powell said.
He added: “There’s such an attraction in this generation where they have to be the best, they have to be No. 1 and it’s like, ‘No you don’t, sometimes you can just have fun. ‘”
At the heart of everything Powell students do in the auditorium is the hope that they can maintain a “balanced outlook on life.”
Despite being named to the prestigious Yamaha list, Powell still feels there is room to grow and improve as an educator.
“I feel like I’m a better educator than when it was announced and hopefully in a month I’ll be a better educator than I was today. I always want to improve,” said said Powell.
“I don’t think accolades necessarily define success, but I do believe in a constant push to the top.”