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Private Lessons from Ben Hjertmann

Use the Contact form to ask questions or to reserve a space.

Topics of Study Available








Music Theory


Instrument Building


Electronic Music


Experimental Sound

Just Intonation



My Teaching Experience

I have been teaching private lessons for 13 years in composition, music theory/ear-training, electronic music, guitar, and voice.  I have a Doctorate in Music Composition from Northwestern University.  I was Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Composition Degree at Appalachian State University from 2014-2018, where I taught composition, theory, ear-training, and electronic music.  Prior to that, I taught composition, theory, ear-training, songwriting, and music technology at Northwestern University (2008-2014) and composition/theory at The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (2011-2014).  Currently, I also teach at Blue Ridge Community College.

Why Private Music Lessons?

Music is one of the most diverse & expansive topics one can study.

Students' goals vary widely and it is my aim to help them find the relevant musical tools to achieve them.

For example, I've had students focus on specific topics including: Jazz guitar arranging, Wind Ensemble orchestration, Just Intonation, Balkan rhythms, live electronic programming, Medieval music, etc. 

Let's focus on what you want to learn, and I will curate the topics accordingly.

Assignments & expectations are dependent on the student and can range from fun exploration to rigorous study.  Learn your favorite songs on guitar/piano, write and record your next album, or prepare for a college degree in composition/theory.

All Ages and Levels of Experience Are Welcome!

I teach students of all ages and experience levels.  Some of my students have never touched an instrument or had any training but are interested in starting from scratch.  Some are lovers of music looking to branch out of their usual modes of performance.  Some are songwriters who want to expand their repertoire of techniques.  Others are looking to play with recordings and samples in electronic software.

I also regularly teach professional musicians (many with music degrees) who are seeking further study of advanced harmony, live electronics and recording, complex rhythms, experimental instrumental techniques, advanced notation, orchestration, microtonality, and much more.  We all have frontiers of music to explore, and it's never too early or late to start!

Lesson Basics

In-person lessons taught in Mars Hill, NC (20min North of Asheville).  Online video lessons available from any location. 

These include live video discussion, audio file sharing and instant feedback from your home.  

Weekly meetings are the standard, but some students opt for less-frequent meetings to save money.

Endorsements from Students

I first became aware of Ben listening to the “ Now And Xen” podcast. A program which focuses on topics involved with Microtonality, Just intonation , musical temperaments etc. I was extremely impressed with his depth of understanding, mastery of the discussion topics and immediately scheduled a meeting. It’s now been 5 months of consistent lessons and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Some of the biggest challenges when learning about Just intonation is that much of the available information  on the subject is overly dense, technical, and doesn’t tell you how to make music from it. The available literature usually contains math equations and physics terminology which is better suited for research and not the creation of music. Ben has a unique way of distilling very complex ideas down to their most fundamental parts. Which made learning about just intonation and microtonality not only east but also extremely enjoyable. I cant say enough wonderful things about my experience working with Ben and there is no better person to learn from on the subject of just intonation and microtonality.  

    – Daniel Richardson  (California-based composer, collaborator)

Ben helps me break down and get my head around music concepts where many others have left me stupefied.  He’s exceptional at teaching into music’s “deeper layer” components, where I think so much of what can hold us back as musicians is feeling awash in skill gaps and unknowns.  We need the core concepts backed up by the “why’s” behind them, and Ben has a very strong sense for this.  He’s groovy and lots of fun, and has an ear for instantly knowing how to make a piece better basically the second he’s heard it, which makes me very jealous!!

    – Ethan K  (Asheville-based songwriter)

I took up private lessons with Dr. Hjertmann after taking a composition seminar with him through my orchestra. His encyclopedic knowledge of theory has helped me expand my music into adventurous territory while his charming demeanor has created a supportive environment that has helped me grow as a musician and a person. He has helped me edit scores to perfection, trained my ear, and given me a solid foundation in a wide variety of theory concepts. No matter the project, the quality of your work will increase immensely with every lesson. My favorite thing about Ben, however, is his flexibility; every session is focused on the needs and interests of the student. If I want to do ear training for the first half and brainstorm ideas for a wind quintet for the second, he is always more-than-willing to adapt. His passion for his craft is evident and his creativity acts as an inspiration when I am stuck. I always look forward to our sessions together and look to continue my sessions with him for the foreseeable future. 

    – Jaime García-Añoveros III  (Chicago-based young composer)

Right from the start, I instinctively felt, bone deep, that Ben understood where I was coming from and would tailor our lessons to my wishes. And he has been doing just that for close to a year. Our weekly slot is my happy time. You cannot be in better hands throughout your journey in exploring any part of music you’d like to. His passion for teaching, his vast knowledge of all things music, and his unbridled creativity is palpable in every moment. Whether you’re a complete novice like me, or have a PhD in Music, Ben meets you where you are. You won’t believe how much you’ll learn. 


I enjoy going to Mars Hill for my lessons as his studio spaces are lovely, inviting, and quite cool. I had the distinct pleasure of recording some stuff in his studio and can’t wait to experience that again. I felt like a toddler playing in a sandbox with not a care in the world. I plan on continuing my lessons for as long as humanly possible. I’d be bummed if Ben or I moved out of state, but then I’d continue weekly lessons with him virtually, so all is good. 

    – Mary L  (Asheville music student)

As a composition student, Ben’s teaching has helped me develop a greater knowledge and depth of understanding of my musical interests and discover new artistic influences, styles, and techniques related to my goals. He creates a lesson environment focused on the student’s individual growth at their own pace, making lessons feel encouraging and empowering without sacrificing rigor or deep critical analysis. Because of his extensive knowledge and wide range of skills, Ben is able to guide his students in nearly any artistic direction. In our lessons we have covered topics ranging from late medieval polyphony to Charles Ives, Stephen Sondheim, hard rock, just intonation, experimental electronic music, digital audio production, and more, all related in some way to the work I brought in.

Most importantly, Ben is an open, friendly, and compassionate person. His care for each student is revealed by his enthusiasm, genuine interest, and respect for his students. He is a reliable mentor and advocate who offers thoughtful and practical advice. I think any student that takes lessons with Ben is bound to develop their own knowledge, skill, and passion in music.

    – Jonathan Snead (Composition student at Appalachian, now collaborator)

I reached out to Ben at a point where I was feeling creatively stuck, bored with my usual ways of making music. Each week, Ben introduced me to new musical concepts and allowed me to pave my own way through incorporating them into my composing. He taught me challenging academic concepts, but it always felt fresh, never esoteric or dated. The goal was always to use these harmonic or rhythmic devices in ways that weren't indulgent, in ways that 'worked.' After a few months of private lessons with Ben, I feel equipped with new perspectives and tools about harmony, rhythm, compositional methods, notation, and more. These tools make me more aware of the possibilities ahead of me; and when I'm editing a piece, I'm more aware of the subtleties that I can tweak to bring my pieces to the next level.

     – John Coyne (New York-based composer)

Everyone knows what it feels like to want to be better at something.  Yet, most of us are familiar with the “plateau” of skill development – that point at which the same amount of work does not produce the same results. For me there were musical concepts that were so foreign that no Youtube video could explain them in a way I understood. I sought out lessons with Ben because I needed to ask someone questions. What I got was something much better.  Ben directs his lessons based on the students’ interests. The result is that you’ll never be bored and you’ll always care for the specific subject. Ben also directs the pace of the lessons based on the individual student. You’ll never lose the feeling of support. Ben speaks to his students in their own language, he has the ability to process in real time what methods of communication do and do not work for each student. You’ll always be able to understand him. The best part is that Ben loves his work. Regardless of the job, if you’re working with someone who loves what they do, your likelihood of success skyrockets. While learning from Ben, I am reminded of why I fell in love with music in the first place, and it is that love that makes me a better musician each week. Thanks Ben.

     – Mason George (private guitar student)

Dr. Ben Hjertmann's approach to composition is completely centered around the individual student and their interests. With Dr. Hjertmann, students could explore composing in a wide variety of styles, genres, and instrumentation, and cover a wide variety of topics that range from introductory compositional ideas such as counterpoint and melodic construction, to more complex ideas such as orchestration and large ensemble compositions. Dr. Ben Hjertmann also has an extensive knowledge with what happens after the composing process is done, including score editing and self-publication, all of which are extremely useful skills to have as a composer at any level.       

     – Zachary Lloyd (4-year composition student at Appalachian State, now a Doctoral student at Florida State University)


Use the Contact form to start a conversation about music lessons in-person or online!

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