MUSIC LESSONS FOR ALL

We offer a wide range of classes and private lessons to meet your needs. Little ones can participate in group music classes with parents, children ages 4 to 6 can learn piano in our First Steps in Piano program, and elementary and teen students can learn piano in the Way Cook Keyboarding group classes. Students ages 5 to 99 can participate in our private lessons or pairs lessons! We offer lessons in piano, voice, guitar, violin, viola, and cello.

HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS

All of the teachers at Velocity Music Academy hold university degrees in music with additional professional training in their teaching area. Many of our teachers hold masters and doctorate degrees in music.  Above all, we all have a love of music that we wish to pass down to everyone who studies with us.

Professional Equipment

In our studio, we have 3 grand pianos, 2 upright pianos, 8 highly responsive concert Kawai and Roland digital pianos as well as an array of guitars, string, and rhythm instruments!  At Velocity Music Academy, students are encouraged to advance in their theory skills through computer and ipad music applications. Our advanced pianists learn and perform on one of our three grand pianos.

For the past 10 years or so in my own personal teaching, I’ve always given my students the opportunity to record their pieces.  We do this one lesson at a time, one piece at a time.  It’s become an event that the students look forward to.  If a piece is polished, they slap a sticker on the page and pull out their USB memory drive.  At Velocity, our Kawai digital pianos record and save directly as a MP3.  The students know automatically to connect their drive under the keys.  At my home studio, I have my Roland connected to my mac with a USB-MIDI cable, and we use Garage Band to record, and iTunes to convert to MP3.  After the student records a piece, the entire process takes less than a minute to save and transfer to the students USB memory drive.  At the end of the school year, we have a nice compilation of pieces to put on a CD for the student to take home.

But why record?  Why bother?  (even if it only 1 minute taken out of the lesson?)  Every minute of lesson time is valuable time that is needed to polish and work on pieces and musical concepts.  Every minute of lesson time is time that is being paid for.  So why do this?

Here’s why:

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  • Recording bridges the gap from lesson to recital.  What makes recitals intimidating?  The one shot mentality.  You have only one shot to be on stage and get your piece right.  How do we practice for recitals?  We practice to perform.  Those mistakes that students are eager to let slip by during a lesson or at home become huge elephants in the room when they are recording.  When a student is recording, they will often do 5-10 takes of their piece, concentrating at a level that they haven’t expressed in their lesson.  Often, when frustrated that they can’t get it right, they take the piece home to practice for another week and bring the piece back more polished than before.  They want to get it recorded on the first try.  They often tell me how their hands sweat and they are nervous during recording.  This is so similar to performing, that it gives students a chance to practice what a recital feels like.
  • Timeline of progress.  There’s nothing like pulling out an old MP3 file from last year and showing the students their progress.  Remember when?  It’s a wonderful pat on the back to all of their hard work.  It’s also a wonderful way for us as parents to file away in a secure spot, just as we carefully folded their first birthday outfit, or filed their first grade handwriting papers.
  • Sharing.  Instead of keeping the files on my computer, I now ask that my students all have portable USB memory sticks.  That way they can take home their pieces every week and e-mail the recording to grandma overseas.  Or their best friend who just moved across the country.  Or just put it on their MP3 player to show their friends at school.
  • Analyzation of technique.  More often than not, it is difficult for us (any of us!) to hear what is going on while we are caught up in playing a piece.  We are reading the music, we are feeling our fingers moving, we are concentrating.  I can point out a half note that was not held long enough.  “What do you mean?” responds the student “I always hold that note long enough!”  With the recording, there is one simple way to find out.  We move the mouse pointer to the beginning of the piece and listen.  And watch.  We watch as the notes are show as MIDI data lines on the program.  All of a sudden that too short half note become more apparent than ever.
  •  Joy.  There’s noting more rewarding, as a teacher, than seeing a look on a student’s face when they have put all of the pieces together, and hold the recording in their hand.

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Here are some recordings that my students have been working on this week.  We hope to showcase weekly student progress on this blog throughout the school year!

[titled_box title=”Julian, age 6″ variation=”blue”]The first performance is by my own son, Julian. He’s 6. We are still on the rough draft of his recording. There are some rhythm errors, some timing issues. However, he couldn’t wait to get through the recording so that he could send it to his grandma in Oregon. And I personally love the small bobbles in this recording. I think this recording will always remind me of his 6 year old self–wiggling on the piano bench, feet twitching and kicking the stool, yet incredibly sensitive beyond his years. I’m playing the accompaniment part with him, he’s playing the melody. [mp3j track=”Somewhere-over-the-rainbow1.mp3″] [/titled_box]

[titled_box title=”Luke, 9th grade” variation=”blue”]The next two recordings are by Luke, a 9th grader. Luke has been working on motivational pieces (we alternate between classical pieces and pieces such as these) that he can play for his church. [mp3j track=”Danny-Boy-1.mp3″] [mp3j track=”My-Savior-My-God-5.mp3″] [/titled_box]

[titled_box title=”L, 4th grade” variation=”blue”]And a final recording by L., a little 4th grader, who is working a lot this year on polishing her pieces without worrying about them too much!  Here’s a recording of a piece that she just loves.  She got it on the first try! [mp3j track=”Erie-Canal.mp3″][/titled_box]

Just a few samplings of the wonderful recording that has gone on in my teaching this week.  It’s why we do what we do!

 

 

For students studying the 8 weeks of technique this week, here are some scale charts to download and use in your practicing.

Major Pentascales starting on a White Key

Major Pentascales starting on a Black Key

Major Scales starting on a White Key

Major Scales starting on a Black Key

 

 

We’re creeping up on our 6th month anniversary!  As director of Velocity, I can tell you that the last 6 months have been the most difficult 6 months of my life.  There have been many nights at 2:00 a.m., when I am still at my computer answering e-mails, filling out invoices, planning lessons, figuring out taxes, ordering music, and calculating teacher pay.  There are many mornings when I wake up at 6 am to take my children to school, drive 45 minutes to my second job (gotta pay the bills!), and wonder just how I’m going to make it until 8:00 p.m. that night, the time of my last private lesson.  It is often at those times that I second guess what I have done, wishing longingly for a life that I had last year when I was “just” a piano teacher.

Indeed, the decision to open Velocity was a difficult decision for me to make.  I knew that I would have to sacrifice personal time, sacrifice my pay, and sacrifice precious time with my young children.  I knew that there would be growing pains, unexpected expenses, and fluctuations in enrollment.  I can honestly say though, even knowing and anticipating all of that, I really had no idea how difficult this would be.  Absolutely no idea!  Now as I look back at the past 6 months, I am also looking forward to the next 6 months, and hope that it will continue to be a joyful growing period.  (I won’t lie though, I am counting down the days to Spring Break!)

When I spend an afternoon seeing all of the music making that is going on at Velocity, that gives me joy.  I hear strains of Bach from the grand piano teaching room; I hear giggles from two little 7 year old girls taking a pairs lesson at the same time; I see little violin students, carefully taking their instruments out of their case; I see the smile of a young guitar student as he greets his teacher with a loud “halloooo Jason!”  In the mornings, I hear excited little 2 and 3 year olds run to the Music Together room, kick off their shoes, and hover around Shara and her guitar and drums.  On Saturdays I see our Suzuki string students standing together, proud as can be, as they demonstrate their proper bow holds.  One Wednesday afternoons, I see a stream of little 5 and 6 year olds coming from our First Steps Class, singing the songs that they covered that lesson.  Yes, there’s a lot of music making, a lot of joy going on in this little space.  Sometimes I have to stop, breathe, and notice all of the music making around me–music making and joy that wasn’t a part of my life 6 months ago.

So, if you are a visitor, stop in sometime!  Hear the laughter, hear the notes creeping out under the doors.  I’ve been trying this week to collect pictures of it all.  I’ll post some private and pairs lesson pictures in this post, and I have some Music Together and Suzuki strings pictures for a post later in the week.

A lesson on our grand piano:


A peek into a pairs lesson:  Here Shane (one of our wonderful piano teachers) has divided the lesson into written activities and playing activities for the girls.

So what are our goals for the next 6 months?  Here are some things that are in the works!

  • Currently planning our April group class week, dividing the students up into sections based on their ages and levels.  Theory, music history, and performing skills, oh my!
  • There’s a new blackboard being painted on the wall of our big room for our April group classes.
  • We are all hard at work planning our summer camps–we have everything from piano camps, to musical theater camps, to suzuki strings camps.
  • Speaking of strings–we now have 8 children in our group suzuki classes on Saturdays!  We hope to expand the program to 25 children in our suzuki string lessons by this Fall.
  • Our First Steps in Piano classes (for ages 4-6) will be expanding over two days.
  • In the fall, we will be adding a monthly group component to all of our private lessons.  I’m so excited about that, because that’s where friendships are formed, where community music learning takes place, and where children learn from each other.

Here’s to the next 6 months!

A Link to our February newsletter in PDF form:

2011FebNewsletterVMA

A longtime friend, fellow piano teacher, and Music Together mom shared this link with me today.  There’s more and more scientific research that music is not just an extra:  it’s a vital part of learning for children.

Scientific American Article

On December 11th, at Steinway Gallery in Austin, TX., our wonderful students wrapped up the year with three recitals.  We programmed between 15-20 students per recital, giving each recital an intimate feel that wasn’t too long.  For the little, wiggly ones (and I am a parent of said wiggly one!), this was well received.  Bravo to all of our wonderful performers!

We are now on break, as we follow the school year calendar of LISD.  We will return to lessons the week of January 3rd, 2011.  Private and pairs lessons will of course continue, as well as a new round of Music Together Classes, featuring the Sticks collection.  We are also working on getting our First Steps in Piano Classes started, as well as our suzuki violin classes and Los Musiqueros Spanish classes.

Sometimes I have to stop and breath and remind myself that we have only been open since September.  Here’s to 2011 and the new year and all the wonderful opportunities that it brings!  Can’t wait for a fresh new year of music making!