Bourland noted that Krouse, who has never taught large survey courses, prefers to be "in the trenches," as Krouse calls it, teaching smaller classes where he can train students more closely. "He does not teach using computers; he has students with their noses in the music, singing or playing along," Bourland wrote. "He is a gentle, yet demanding, teacher of music. His students sweat in his classes, and they cherish the challenge."
Even though Krouse spends countless hours with his students — in his classes, in his office hours and through the private lessons he gives both on campus and at home — he still finds time to be a successful working composer. He has several CD and DVD releases of original works, many of which are performed around the world by his peers in concert.
That blackboard with the music staff? It was used by Arnold Schoenberg, namesake of the music building.
How does one "teach" composing, when it would seem to be a talent that one either has, or doesn’t? "That is the big question," Krouse said, laughing. "Part of it is sharing the experience and wisdom that I have, simply because I’m older than they are. I’ve been doing it longer, so it’s easy!"
With a mother who was a pianist and a father who was a serious stereo buff, Krouse was surrounded by music early on. At 10, the budding musician took up the guitar and would listen to Beatles songs on the radio, figure out the chords and teach his friends how to play the songs. In his 20s, Krouse became a concert guitarist, pursuing a double career as a composer and as a performer, but was forced to jettison the performance part after damaging his hands from "overuse syndrome."
Krouse continued to learn how to play several other instruments, including the piano ("very badly"), percussion, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone, violin and cello — realizing that he would have to know what it was like to play those instruments if he was going to be a successful composer. He gives that advice to his students today.
"How does one make it in a field like this? A lot of the work I do with my young students is practical in nature," Krouse said. "You know: ‘Where are we headed with this? Do you want to be a concert composer and write symphonies and string quartets and operas and songs? Or do you want to go into the commercial field and write for movies and video games, commercials and TV programs?’
"Most students want to be both, which is very good and very possible; far more possible today than it was when I was a student. There used to be a sort of stigma that was attached to those who wanted to go into the applied fields. Sort of like art and commercial art. Thankfully, that nonsense is pretty much gone nowadays."
His goal, Krouse said, is to help his students understand and envelop their artistry. "I really want them to try and develop their own individual voice. This is something I’ve spent a long time thinking about as a teacher, in part because I do it with myself.
"I’m a practicing composer, not just a teacher of composition," he said. "So a part of that is sharing with them my own struggles. And the struggle is really a piece of it. It’s not something to shun or be afraid of; it’s something to embrace. The struggle becomes your friend."