Joseph Berman

Joseph (he/they) is an active member of the Portland music scene with a master’s degree in jazz composition from the University of Miami. Joseph can be heard performing with folk-pop outfit Robin Jackson and the Caravan, and klezmer violinist Michelle Alany. Joseph believes in taking time to get to know each student, and to develop for them a personalized course of study based on their interests and needs.


What age were you when you first started taking music lessons?
Piano lessons at age 7.
Tell us about an early music lessons experience that helped shape you as a musician or teacher:
I took my first guitar lesson at summer camp when I was 12. The guitar instructor was a scruffy guy with mutton chops named Jeff. Earlier during the camp, I had seen Jeff play the riff from “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith on a bright green electric guitar, which was enough to convince 12-year-old me that Jeff was most likely the coolest person in the world.
During our lesson, Jeff showed me a few easy songs by Tom Petty and Dave Matthews. I don’t remember many specifics of the lesson, but I do remember that Jeff was very encouraging. And then after a short while, the lesson was over and it was time for me to go back to my bunk. A few days later camp ended and I returned home, never to see Jeff again.
Even though our interaction was brief, it changed my life profoundly. As soon as Jeff showed me how to play my first chord, I was overcome with a feeling that this was something I was meant to do, that I was meant to be a guitarist. I think that is one of the amazing things about teaching – that you never know how much of an impact you might have on your students. I doubt that Jeff remembers me, but the lesson we had together altered the trajectory of my life. I will always be grateful for Jeff, and for the inspiration and encouragement he provided at that seminal moment in my childhood.
What are your favorite bands or musicians?

The classics! The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, Radiohead, Bowie, Nirvana. Also, independent music is a big part of my life. I love Guided By Voices, Pavement, Arthur Russell, Deerhoof, Cate Le Bon, Aldous Harding, Tune-Yards, Nick Drake, and many others.

Do you have a highlight of your music career so far that you would like to share?
Touring with a choir in Hungary and Romania. Driving on a bus through the countryside, visiting little towns, performing in ancient churches – we had so much fun! It turns out the dense forests of Transylvania look a lot like Oregon. Also, a popular food in Romania is fried chunks of bacon with raw onions.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is anyone who is passionate about music! As long as a student loves music and has a desire to learn, we will get along well. That being said, there are a few types of students that I work especially well with: young students (10 or younger); sensitive students; high energy students, troublemakers; neurodivergent students; anyone interested in classic or indie rock; anyone interested in improvisation or composition/songwriting.
Describe what your students should expect in their first few music lessons.
Students should expect to start learning real music from the very first lesson! I think it is important to get started right away learning songs that the student knows and likes. Often in music education, a new student will start by learning exercises or “teaching pieces” before they do any recognizable songs. This, in my experience, is demotivating. The sooner a student can start playing the music they love, the better!
Why did you want to become a music teacher?
I wanted to provide for others the type of music learning experience that I wasn’t able to have as a kid. Even though I started learning music at a young age, the quality of my music education was not always that great. When I work with my students, sometimes I teach them things that I did not learn myself until my twenties or thirties. This always makes me happy. It makes me feel like I am giving my students a shorter, faster path to success than the one I had to follow. I think every student who is passionate about music deserves the information that will allow them to accomplish their goals.


Want to take lessons with Joseph? Follow this link to get started!