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Instructor Spotlight: Rich Fongheiser

This month, we talk to Rich Fongheiser, a professional musician and teacher who is an LPIE music mentor at Stanley Middle School.

Tell us what you do for LPIE and how long have you been doing it?

I am responsible for working with all of the drummer/percussionists at Stanley Middle School. Throughout the year, I teach students rhythmic notation and the techniques used to play all of the percussion instruments in band such as the snare and drums, tympani and all of the auxiliary percussion (tambourine, triangle, wood blocks, etc.).

There is a strong emphasis on the mallet keyboard instruments such as xylophone and marimba. I also work with the drummers in jazz band on the drum set, congas and vibes. I'm not sure exactly how long I have been working here, but it's well over fifteen years.

What is your background in this area?

I have been playing and teaching professionally for over 40 years. My private teaching studio, Drumtalk Studios, has been located at Campana Music in Lafayette for the last thirty-five of those years. I was a music major at Cal State Hayward and have studied with many different teachers on drum set, hand percussion and mallets. My playing career has spanned a multitude of genres from rock, funk, jazz, classical and musical theatre.

What is your favorite thing about teaching Middle School students?

Their energy, excitement and honesty. When they are having fun and are excited, it's hard for them to contain their energy. If they are not excited about a particular aspect of the lesson plan, their honesty gives that away. They also have a great sense of humor.

What is the most surprising thing about teaching to this age group?

The insight they have to the world around them. If you provide a space where they feel confident. comfortable and safe to express themselves, it's amazing what they will come out with. It's also interesting what you as a teacher learn about yourself. Sometimes that's the biggest surprise.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Since the world of percussion and the approaches to teaching/learning are so vast, I actually spend much of my time practicing and reading about the art of teaching. And spending time with my family is always my greatest joy.

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