Artistic Passion Creates Success

When Jonathan Bergeron was finishing up his doctoral degree in music at Florida State University, a colleague informed him of an open position to teach saxophone at Northern Arizona University. A highly-accomplished saxophonist, Bergeron was looking for just the right job that would allow him to continue performing while he pursued teaching. Bergeron joined Northern Arizona University in 2000, and created one of the most successful saxophone studios in the country.

Bergeron's passion for performing and teaching music is a family tradition. He grew up in New Orleans performing in jazz halls with notable musicians, including his father—a dedicated music teacher and band director.

Bergeron is now a highly-regarded musician in the classical and jazz worlds, concertizing and conducting educational workshops all over the country. As a result, he attracts students from all over who want to come to the university. "I am very fortunate in that I can pick who comes here," Bergeron says. "A small percentage of those who audition will be accepted."

Dedicated to his students

As a music educator, Bergeron brings incredible energy into his students' lessons—such as using song and dance, and even grabbing his instrument to play along—all in the name of motivating and inspiring his students. "Music is all about movement, so when students see me move and react, they just play better," he explains.

Bergeron has an open-door policy for all his students. They can knock on his studio door day or night—not just to talk about music, but to brag about a test score, or peruse his audio library to borrow recordings.

"My life is dedicated to the students, and they know it," Bergeron says. "In return, they pay me back by working really hard, and it shows in their weekly lessons."

Bergeron's devotion yields impressive results. Current and former students are winning state and regional competitions, as well as prestigious international awards. Four of his former undergraduate students—who often played and performed together while at the university—formed the Mana Quartet. In 2009, the Mana Quartet won the grand prize at the Coleman International Chamber Ensemble Competition, which marked the first time in the history of the competition that a saxophone quartet received this honor.

Even with these successful examples, Bergeron encourages all his performance students to also complete an education degree. It is not only practical in that they will broaden their skill set when they enter the workforce, but Bergeron feels it can also make them better musicians. "The last thing I want to see is a music graduate spending four or five years waiting tables," he says.

Musical excellence


Bergeron's philosophy is personal. He confesses to having three full-time jobs: his family, his students, and his own performing career, which requires a lot of practice. He likes to lead by example, he says, and always strives to make his music as close to perfect as possible, "because that is what I ask of my students."

Bergeron has created  a reputation of musical excellence at the university. "NAU is different, because our professors are teaching day in and day out. Not every campus has this type of dedication," he says.

When prospective students ask Bergeron why they should come to the university, he tells them, "We are unique. At NAU, you will get personalized instruction from actual professors." Bergeron adds, "The students that pass through my studio are such a big part of my life, and I am committed to providing them the instruction and support that they need to succeed."