Skip to main content
2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Alex Mutz conducting

Alex Mutz

director of bands
Sam L. Martin Middle School
Austin, Texas

The band at Sam L. Martin Middle School has a large Hispanic population with many coming from Central and South America who speak little English. Over 92% of band members are economically disadvantaged and a large portion have at least one accommodation. Director of Bands Alex Mutz says that being a person of color and a multilingual educator from outside the U.S. has helped him form a bond with his students because he understands what his students have gone through as immigrants. “Being able to navigate their language brightens students’ mood because they have someone who they can communicate with,” Mutz says.

He makes sure that his students can overcome obstacles and have the tools and resources they need to succeed, such as playing professional-level instruments. “My view is: Why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to receive the same level of education as any other student regardless of their home situation,” Mutz says.

Mutz adapted many of his lessons to accommodate non-native English speakers. For example, while certain songs are common in the U.S. like “Mary had a Little Lamb,” many of his students do not know it. “So, I try to incorporate songs that they know from their culture,” he explains. “When we are learning notes on the staff, I ask students for input and together we create Spanish versions of ‘every good boy does fine’ to help them remember the notes.”

Mutz has also researched different phonetic approaches and words to help students learn to articulate on wind instruments, which sets them up for success.

It seems fateful that when Mutz attended his college orientation, he decided to change his major from engineering to music. “At registration, it struck me that engineering wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to keep pursuing music, so I changed my major right there,” he says.

Currently, Mutz is pursuing his masters in music education at Eastman School of Music on top of his work with the middle school and high school bands, and teaching private lessons. “I give the hours that I can without overly stressing myself and still being able to give maximum effort. I have a clear line of communication with my schools. It’s about perspective and loving what you do without burning yourself out,” he says.

As a child, Mutz wanted to join the legendary Blue Devils Bugle and Drum Corps after watching their 1994 show and in particular, the featured euphonium player. When he eventually made the corps, Mutz met the euphonium player and told him that he was his inspiration growing up. “He told me that when he was young, he wanted to be like someone in the corps as well,” Mutz says. “Years after aging out, a euphonium player on one of the marching bands that I was teaching came up and told me that I was his inspiration and that he wanted to be like me. A full circle moment!”