The music within

Mentor helps Ruben Miranda succeed as a musician and professional.

Since fourth grade, music has always been a driving force in Ruben Miranda’s life. It is the people who inspired him to explore music as a child that motivated him to study music education at Northern Arizona University. At the university, he has been a stellar performer and leader among his peers in the School of Music’s Tuba and Euphonium studio. Miranda’s dedication to his craft is largely responsible for his success, but another factor has also played a critical role—his close relationship with university faculty member Alexander Lapins, professor of tuba and euphonium.

Miranda considers Lapins—a world-class tubist—his biggest advocate, mentor, and critic. But the relationship between them is not based exclusively around music; they would often discuss Miranda’s career aspirations and future goals.

“It’s been really nice getting close to Dr. Lapins,” Miranda says. “I still ask him questions and get his insight because he gives me really good guidance and sound advice, but also constructive criticism, too.”

Mentors and colleagues

Within the School of Music, students are paired with faculty members that specialize in their instrument and/or vocal style. These faculty members are internationally recognized performers and scholars, and they pass their experience and expertise onto their students. Miranda cites this relationship as a large reason why he’s the excellent musician he is today. 

It is not a one-way street. Lapins explains that he frequently learns a great deal from the students..

“Certainly, I learn a lot from every single student I have. And frankly, sometimes it’s the students that struggle a little bit more who teach me the most,” says Lapins. “Teaching Ruben has been such an amazing job, because I certainly know what may be the right direction for musical technique or something like that, where it’s, ‘Hey, go that way.’ He’ll go like a rocket ship 50 miles in that direction and it’s really fantastic.”

Passing on the gift of music

Now a student teacher at Deer Valley High School in Phoenix, Miranda acknowledges the role Northern Arizona University played in helping him grow as a musician, a teacher, and most importantly, a leader.

While he has risen to the occasion musically, Miranda has extended his involvement in the School of Music beyond performing. An active member of the music service fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, Miranda was a key factor in many of the events and fundraising successes for his studio as well, including the very successful Tubagrams program. In this program, euphonium and tuba players perform arrangements of popular music for special occasions, and they offer to play for anyone for a small fee.

“Ruben was a tremendous leader for the studio, and he participated in a lot of fundraising and organizational work that brought some really big names to perform here on campus,” Lapins says.

Miranda is currently teaching the basics of music theory and instrumental technique, as well as a passion for the craft, and emphasizes the hard work that it takes. For Miranda, who will graduate in December 2013, the journey is just beginning. As he completes student teaching, he looks forward to passing the gift of music on to young students.