Facebook Twitter

Murray teacher turns cacophony into music

SHARE Murray teacher turns cacophony into music

Any parent whose child has learned to play a musical instrument has deep empathy for the likes of Heath Wolf.

Wolf, Hillcrest Junior High's instrumental music teacher, leads classrooms teeming with fledgling musicians."It takes a lot of patience but you see the reward in the end. They start from nothing, so yes, those first days are pretty interesting. But all of a sudden, they understand it. They think it's pretty neat," said Wolf, Murray School District's 1998 Teacher of the Year.

It takes a remarkable educator to transform cacophony into harmony, said Hillcrest principal Carolyn Schubach.

"Health Wolf has the capacity to bring the best out in every student. It's there in each of them, but he sees it when most other people don't. He has an extremely rigorous program, high expectations of his students and they perform for him. Our band sounds like a high school band. It's amazing," Schu-bach said.

Some of Wolf's students come to school as early as 6:30 a.m. to take part in extracurricular programs such as percussion ensemble and jazz band.

"They make a commitment and never miss. He teaches them a lot about self-discipline, focus and concentration. And he really likes them. He's not impatient with them at all. The parents are crazy about him," Schubach said.

The before-school programs require considerable discipline on Wolf's behalf, as well. Wolf commutes to school from American Fork, where his wife, Christine, teaches instrumental music at American Fork Junior High. They are expecting their first child in June. The couple met while attending the University of Utah.

Wolf is a percussionist, although he also plays flute, clarinet, trumpet and trombone. "Playing them well is a different story," said Wolf, laughing.

Wolf's interest in music was stirred in fifth grade when the local high school band performed at his elementary school.

"They were just ripping on a song. There was a tingling going up and down my back. I wanted to be able to do that. From that point on, I was musician bound," he said.

Wolf said he enjoys teaching junior high because he enjoys the age group. "They're a lot of fun. They have a lot of energy," Wolf said.

While at 29 he's 17 years senior to his students, Wolf said he feels deeply connected to them.

"When I was in school, the only class I looked forward to was band. I was such a troublemaker that I can relate a lot to the kids. I still feel pretty much as a kid."

That's not to say he believes that teachers should be their students' friend. "What they need is an adult who is fair, consistent and cares about them."

Teaching junior high, most of Wolf's nights are free for professional music gigs playing percussion.

"It's fun. You never know what you're going to end up with. I've played with wedding bands, party band, the Sundance Theater. There's so many options."

Wolf said he believes his students are successful because of the great parent support extended to the band and orchestra program.

"The parents are wonderful about volunteering. They have built stands for equipment, created programs for concerts, driven car pools and spent the entire days with us. One even donated a Pentium computer. It's amazing what happens when parents see kids are having success."