We contacted Aakash Mittal about clarinet lessons for our son after he gave a presentation at our son's 5th grade instrumental music class. Were very glad we did. Our son improved quickly during the three years he took lessons from Aakash. He received music awards at Centennial Middle School, twice auditioned into CU Boulders Middle School Honor Band, made first clarinet at CUs Middle School Band Camp, and auditioned into Boulder Highs Wind Ensemble. To cap his time with Aakash, he gave his own clarinet recital, including three duets with Aakash, as well as the 3rd movement of Mozarts Clarinet Concerto with piano accompaniment.
More importantly, the process that led to these accomplishments was genuinely enjoyable. Our son started off with a half-hour lesson each week, and liked it so much that he quickly moved to an hour lesson. Aakash has an excellent teaching style. After our son played a piece, Aakash would ask what he thought went well, and what needed work. Aakash rarely had negative criticism and focused on what elements would improve a piece, and in getting students to honestly evaluate themselves. As our son gained skill and confidence, they got down to brass tacks more quicklybut still without him ever feeling guilty or chastised.
Aakashs primary instrument is the saxophone, but he thoroughly understands the clarinet. Lessons included instrument-specific tasks like fine pitch control, breathing, alternate fingerings, tonguing, and embouchure, as well as broader topics of playing exact rhythm, tempo changes, pitch, dynamics, and phrasing. Most importantly, he understands that, as time-consuming as these components are, they are ultimately just technical elements. After our son mastered them for a hard piece, theyd then work on exploiting them to play music that swoops and soars and comes from the heart.
And though Aakashs favorite style is pretty hyperactive jazz, he is comfortable with a wide range of musical styles. Our son played the MapleStory video game for years, and Aakash helped him learn transcriptions of several songs from the game. For one recital, our son found several Legend of Zelda transcriptionsevoking exclamations from other students like We can play game music for a recital? I didnt know that! As our sons taste gravitated toward classical music, Aakash was right there with him.
Aakash was especially good at helping our son work on challenging pieces. Our son is always choosing music that seems a little (or sometimes, a lot) beyond his level. For example, the Mozart Clarinet Concerto is really a virtuoso recital piece. They took the 3rd movement one section at a time, sometimes playing very slowly to get the rhythms and notes right. Aakash had him try to play along with a full orchestra recording (where it was clear that playing at full tempo makes the piece exponentially more difficult.) Okay, that didnt work, so they concentrated on getting it right at a slightly more relaxed tempo. Eventually, we brought in a friend of Aakashs on piano, and the three of them worked on how to coordinate and figure out who was in charge of the rhythm. It made an exhilarating finale to our sons solo recital.
Aside from his skills as a teacher, Aakash is also quite practical. He knew that his own concert schedule affected his teaching schedule, so was good about trying to make up missed classes during the week, and was flexible when our own schedule interfered with lessons. Were also impressed with his ambitionhe knows that great musicians dont sit around waiting to be discovered, but actively promote themselves and make things happen. We have seen him playing live with various people many times, and have enjoyed the variety of musical styles and partners. (Especially when he plays with electric violin. Hint, hint!)
We enjoyed our three years with Aakash, and had mixed feelings about him leaving for Indiahappy for him, but sad that we were losing a great teacher. We can whole-heartedly recommend him for just about anything hes trying to do.