Michael Hefner

Michael Hefner gives a guitar lesson to Zoe Johnson outside his studio last fall.

Over the last several years, Michael Hefner has made a name for himself performing at nearly all the local venues.

He’s also passing on some of his musical knowledge.

“I give a lot of private music lessons for kids, and really students of all different kinds of ages,” Hefner said. “Most of them start no younger than 5, then I even teach some adults, too. The ages can go from 5 up to 65.

“Primarily, it’s K through 12 students. The instruments I work with the most are drums, guitars, pianos and bass, then I recently started with a lot of the students who are interested making beats like you would hear in music that’s really popular now like hip-hop.”

Hefner’s lessons, which take place alongside Creative Endeavors Art Studio on the first floor of the First United Methodist Church of Morganton, also include songwriting for students of all instruments.

He has about 50 active students and won’t put a cap on his number of pupils unless he runs out of time slots.

“A lot of them start lessons because they want to sing and write their own songs,” Hefner said. “Before I started teaching, that’s what I was doing was performing music, either with my band or by myself. They’ve really enjoyed it.

“Once we get a song, whether it’s an original they’ve written that I’ve helped them write or one that they’ve worked really hard on by somebody else they really like playing or singing, we usually record it. I also operate a small recording studio out of the same place I teach. They’ve really, really loved it so far.”

Hefner, who began writing music himself when he was 16 and now is 31, said that working with beginning musicians writing their own music hasn’t been too challenging, but rather very enjoyable for him. He said the biggest test has been getting the students to feel confident in their own work.

Ultimately, the pathway to writing a song goes through a basic formula, he said.

“I can just sit there with them and be like, ‘Pick three letters out of this musical key,’” Hefner said. “Then, I can be like, ‘You know those three chords. Play those three chords.’ Literally, they’ve written a song. They pick which notes they want to use, then we go from there.

“The hard part is getting them to feel confident and realize they did just write a song.”

Hefner said once that realization sets in for a student, it’s rewarding to watch their approach change.

Music also can help students who are shy come out of their shell, and can be a healthy channel for frustrations or expressing emotions, Hefner said.

“Even with young kids who are like 5, 6 or 7 years old, I’ve had students who come in and have had a rough day at school. They were really upset that them and one of their friends had not gotten along, or they had had their feelings hurt about something,” Hefner said.

“After a while, you get to be close with your students. You become a mentor where you can talk about stuff where they’re not nervous or shy around you. It’s cool to listen to what they’re upset about and then redirect their attention onto the duet you were working on or the jam you were doing on your guitars. You kind of talk them through being upset when they first come in and then teach them to relax and process through whatever was bothering them.

“I think music can be therapy. It was for me at different parts of my life when I was having a rough time with something.”

Hefner’s lessons, which are weekly, half-hour, one-on-one sessions, cost $60 per month. For students who want to add on beat-making for their instruments, lessons are an extra 15 minutes per session and an extra $30 per month.

“I’ve intentionally kept the lesson rates below what the average would be, even in this area,” Hefner said. “I’ve worked with a lot of families that aren’t super-wealthy. I think it’s important for everyone to be able to come in and do it.”

Hefner’s students perform two big recitals each year up on the stage at the church, which features a professional-grade sound system and lights.

Those who are interested in Hefner’s lessons can text or call 828-310-3945 or drop by Creative Endeavors at 200 N. King St. in downtown Morganton to pick up one of his business cards or visit him from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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