Utah junior high music teacher named one of Yamaha’s ’40 Under 40′

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Alec Powell, a choir educator at Mountain Ridge Junior High in Alpine, Utah, was named one of Yamaha’s “40 Under 40” for 2022. The “40 Under 40” program, created by Yamaha in 2021, seeks to “recognize and celebrate outstanding young music educators,” and Powell exemplifies exactly that. (Photo courtesy of Alec Powell)

An Alpine junior high choir educator was named one of Yamaha’s “40 Under 40,” a music education advocacy program, for 2022.

The program, created by Yamaha in 2021, seeks to “recognize and celebrate outstanding young music educators” and according to the organization, Alec Powell exemplified exactly that.

Powell, who teaches music at Mountain Ridge Junior High in Alpine, Utah, graduated from Utah Valley University and said he didn’t grow up thinking he would become a music educator.

“I needed the scholarship funnily enough,” Powell said. “I took a choir class and fell in love with that and decided that this is the jam.”

Although he never took any choral classes during his time in junior high and high school, Powell said his Advanced Placement music theory teacher introduced him to the love of music education.

“I took AP music theory, and I saw how much fun the choir teacher had with it. I was like, ‘I think I want to be a part of this.'”

Powell joined Mountain Ridge Junior High four years ago after applying to different schools and being rejected. Powell said he even considered a career switch if he couldn’t find a job. After applying to Mountain Ridge, he was hired as their choir teacher.

“The fine arts are tricky because there’s only one position per school, so they don’t come up very often,” Powell said. “It was crushing to be rejected all those times, but I think this is where I was supposed to be from the get go.”

Powell said music is vastly important because it allows people to express themselves when it’s not easy.

“Especially my students when they feel insecure or when they’re not confident about what they’re doing,” Powell said. “This age group needs to feel welcome and wanted; music gives them a place of belonging.”

Powell said that one thing he hopes his students learn from him is to be listeners.

“I tell my students all the time to listen more than they sing,” Powell said. “Yes, in terms of music, but it’s also just a life skill. Listen more than you do.”

Powell said his favorite part about working with students is the last month of the semester, when they learn to connect through song.

Powell teaches classes of around 70 students who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. “It’s always rocky the first couple of months because they don’t trust each other yet,” Powell said.

Eventually they come together, listen to one another and put themselves out there, Powell said.

“It makes the music go from being really good to magical,” Powell said. “It’s nothing I can teach, it’s an innate thing. They have to find it in themselves.”

Brittni Smith, Mountain Ridge’s drama teacher, said the students love Powell.

“The kids absolutely adore him,” Smith said. “He’s popular with all different kinds of students. I’m so lucky that I got to work with him.”

Although Powell has only been at Mountain Ridge Junior High for a few years, he has recently accepted a new position as the choir teacher at Lone Peak High School.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Powell said about leaving Mountain Ridge. “I really like the school culture, love the community, and you know it’s hard to leave a good thing.”

However, Mountain Ridge Junior High is one of the schools that feeds into Lone Peak High School, so Powell will have the opportunity to interact with many of the same students.

Mountain Ridge Junior High Principal David Mower labeled Powell as the “complete teacher”.

“He is both a mentor and a teacher. I can’t say enough good about him,” Mower said.

Mower also mentioned that although Mountain Ridge will miss Powell, Lone Peak and its students will thrive with him as their choir teacher.

“We wish him well,” Mower said. “There’s no replacing someone like him.”

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