Meet Laura, our newest piano instructor in Nashville TN!

Laura at the piano
Laura piano instructor in Nashville TN
Laura piano instructor in Nashville TN
Laura as a child
Laura as a child

Laura was born in a suburb of Chicago Illinois on December 23, 1976. This Christmas baby was the youngest of five children and named after the song “Laura.”  Before Laura was even born, music was destined to be in her life.  Her father bought a Baldwin console piano for her Mother when Laura was very young and Laura was instantly drawn to the piano.  Her Mother purposely waited until Laura could read at the age of six to pursue lessons and recalls never having to force her to practice.  She did it for the pure joy of it.  

Although Laura was Classically trained,  she wanted to play what she heard on the radio. She would set up her cassette player next to the piano and sound out the notes. Around the age of eight, she began composing original compositions.  Laura attended High School at Mother McAuley, a private college prep school.  She joined the choir and was the piano accompanist for three years. When she was fifteen, she released her first album with the little bit of money her Grandmother left her.  While in High School, Laura also pursued acting and modeling.  She was placed in multiple TV and print ads. 

Laura Left the security of her home and family in Chicago when she was eighteen to attend Arizona State University.  While at ASU she composed the music for two theatre productions.  She was also the keyboardist in the band Surrender Dorothy, which was chosen to open for the 1999 Phoenix Lilith Fair with Sarah McLaughlin, Sheryl Crow and Martina McBride.  She then composed the original score for the independent film, An Intimate Friendship, by Filling The Gap Productions which also featured music by Melissa Etheridge. 

Throughout Laura’s relationship with music, there was always one thing missing.  Since as far back as she could remember she had an inability to project her voice.  Beyond a normal speaking volume, a scream would turn into a whisper of sorts.  She always yearned to put vocals to her compositions but was physically unable to.  In college she met with Doctors that diagnosed her with right vocal cord paralysis.  She was happy to finally have an answer to her limitations, but was saddened by the prognosis. Surgery was an option where they could move the paralyzed vocal cord closer to the functioning one to create sound, but Doctors stressed that although she would be able to project her voice, she would never be able to sing.  Laura wasn’t discouraged and proceeded with the surgery.  With her new voice she began to teach herself to sing and play guitar based on her knowledge of the piano.  

Laura graduated with honors from ASU with a Degree in Broadcasting and a Minor in Music.  After graduating, Laura worked at Steinway Hall in Accounts Payable Receivable.  She took the job with the stipulation that she could play the Steinway pianos on her lunch break and they happily obliged.  Soon a friend asked her to teach her niece how to play piano which led to the start of her teaching career.  She loved teaching beginners where she had a clean slate to form good habits and assist in training their ear.  Teaching group lessons through a local company soon followed while she pursued her singer/songwriting career.  

The drive inside Laura to sing her own songs surpassed the limitations once set by Doctors.  She later went onto release four albums under her indie label Lolo Records in which she not only played the piano and guitar, but sang her original compositions.  As a member of Chicks With Picks she had the opportunity to open for Country artist Sarah Buxton.  She later had the privilege to open for another one of her mentors, Edwin McCain, on the Cayamo music cruise.  

You may have also seen Laura on NBC’s #1 rated show, Fear Factor. In a brave attempt to win $50,000 to assist her career, she had the rare opportunity to ride a bull and eat cow brains.  Although she did not win, it only proves how fearless Laura is in life and as an artist.

In 2010 Laura packed up her belongings and musical instruments into her car and drove from Arizona to Nashville TN.  She no longer wanted to get paid to perform cover songs at local venues where there was a glass ceiling to her songwriting career.  She quickly became affiliated with NSAI and ASCAP.  Songwriting venues enforced a quiet atmosphere and she knew she was in the right place to be heard.  She has performed at the famous Bluebird Cafe, The Listening Room, Douglas corner, Bobby’s Idle Hour and numerous other writers rounds.  Publishers and mentors have recognized Laura for her melodic storytelling with a poetic undertone.  

Laura is grateful for the gift of music and desires to give that gift to others through teaching and volunteer work.  She is currently a music volunteer at Alive Hospice where she plays piano and guitar for the residents.  She is also affiliated with Melody Music Studios which enables her to reach out to more students.  It is a company which shares her same joy of music and parallels her tenacity with similar values and unwavering excellence.  

At this point in her life and career Laura desires to get back to basics and simply enjoy music.  Beyond the limitations of the Nashville format based on financial gain, she believes the song itself exists in its’ purest form.  She is now in the studio working on songs for her fifth album. 

The best way to describe Laura’s musical journey is through the lyrics to her well received song, The Songwriters.  “When we stand in front of Jesus and he asks us what we did our pockets will be empty but we’ll say we used our gift.  And when we play for all the angels and they ask us who are we…… we’ll tell them we are the songwriters of Nashville Tennessee. I’m just one of the songwriters of Nashville Tennessee.”


Should you force your child to take music lessons?

And the answer is…..(wait for it…) YES!  As parents (myself included), don’t we “force” our child(ren) to go to school, brush their teeth, and go to bed at a certain time?  If our child said “I don’t want to go to school”, do we say, “OK, sure you can stay home…no problem!”….NO!  We say, “Sorry honey, school is good for you and you’ll thank me one day”.  I know what you’re saying, music lessons are not part of the core subjects needed for a child to earn a living…or is it?  With all the studies that have been done on the effects of music lessons on the brain (which I could discuss in a 10 page post) , you would think schools would put more importance on music education. But wait, schools are CANCELLING music education for lack of funds (or they say).  So that leaves parents with the task of taking music lessons into their own hands and signing up for private music lessons.  I know there are families that are unable to afford music lessons, which greatly saddens me, because I think every child should have the opportunity to learn and study an instrument.  And sadly, a lot of parents that CAN afford music lessons, allow their child to quit after just a few lessons.  And many blogs I’ve read tell parents not to “force” their child to take (or continue) lessons if they’re not interested.  In my opinion, that’s bad advise because most children are going to say no to studying anything if given the chance.  But are we doing our child a favor by allowing them to quit after a few lessons, or not start at all?  Are we teaching them it’s ok to quit when something is difficult?  Are we taking away the chance to teach the child how to stick with something that takes longer than 30 seconds to acquire a skill for?  Are we taking away an opportunity that could be great for them as adults? 

In my over 30 years of offering music lessons and speaking with thousands of adults, I hear two stories:  “I wish I could have taken music lessons as a child”, or “I wish my parents wouldn’t have let me quit!”.  Now the first story is sad when a child that WANTS to have the opportunity to learn to sing or play an instrument and can’t, but even sadder is when an adult regrets having quit lessons, and wishes he or she could enjoy the gift of music now in his or her life.  I believe it’s never too late to learn an instrument, but there are advantages to learning music as a child while they’re in the early development.  And you never know what a child could have done with the gift of music in their life as they turn into an adult.  But without the opportunity, we will never know!

Now I understand that music is not going to be every child’s “thing”.  In teaching hundreds of students, 99% of them will never use music as a career in his or her life.  Is it still a great thing to offer them lessons?  Of course!  Even though it may not be a chosen career, it could have a great impact in whatever career they DO choose.  Music lessons have so many pieces of the pie that are great tools for most occupations; from mathematical skills, discipline, creativity, social skills, and most importantly, confidence.  When a student learns to master singing or playing an instrument, which takes a lot of time to acquire, it gives the child confidence and takes away the fear of learning other new things.  Since most of the population never learn to master music, it gives a student a special pride knowing he or she has accomplished something that most people never achieve.  That can make the difference in a child’s choice of occupation and determination to go far in life.  

When my two oldest sons were in middle school, I “forced” them to be in my keyboard class I was teaching at the time.  It was a year long (the longest class I EVER taught…), and they begged me to quit almost the entire time.  Of course I said “not on your life will you quit my class!”.  It paid off!  Years later my oldest son thanked me for NOT letting him quit, and he now uses what he learned for a career in music and recording.  Remember when I said they’ll thank you one day?  It really does happen, you just have to be patient.  

I know what you’re saying, how do you get your child to stick with it?  One thing I suggest is giving a time frame for completing the lessons if he or she is wanting to quit.  If your child has only just started the lessons (and usually that’s when they want to quit because it’s difficult at first), you can tell them they’ll be taking lessons for an X amount of time.  I suggest a year for a beginner before letting them quit, because it normally takes from 9 months to a year to get beyond what I call the “beginner’s hump”.  After about a year, the student will develop a skill that makes it more fun to sing or play an instrument.  At that point, you won’t have to try so hard to make them continue if it’s something they enjoy learning.  If it’s not their cup of tea, then stopping the lessons is appropriate at this time.  At least your child will know what they DON’T want to do in life. 

Another complaint I hear (and hear often) is their child won’t practice.  I think this is the worst reason for parents to cancel their child’s music lessons.  Do you take a child out of school because they won’t do their homework?  Practicing is actually the part of music lessons that I believe helps build the discipline a child will need in life.  I have written a Practicing Tips article that give ideas on how to practice that is helpful to parents.  The main suggestion I have is scheduling practice times, the same as the lessons are scheduled to become a part of the child’s routine.  It could be before or after homework, dinner, first thing in the morning or when coming home from school; whatever works best in his or her schedule.  Once it’s a routine in your child’s life, it won’t be forgotten or become a shouting match to practice. 

So the bottom line is, parents, don’t be afraid to be the parent!  Your child(ren) will thank you as an adult when they realize you did what was best for them, and not what made you parent of the year!  After all, that’s what your job is, to offer the most opportunities for your child(ren) and create a human being that will be the best he or she can be!  

Gift Certificates for Music Lessons!

Gift certificate music lessons

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

What kind of gift keeps on giving and lasts a life time?  The gift of music lessons, of course!  Gift certificates for music lessons say you care about your special someone in your life.  With every lesson,  practice session, or performance, he or she will be reminded of the person who cared enough to buy a gift certificate to sing or play their favorite instrument.  At Melody Music Studios, we offer gift certificates for all instruments, from piano, voice, guitar, drums, to all kinds of stringed instruments (banjo, violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, and ukulele), as well as band instruments (trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, and flute). 

Buy a Gift Certificate

For piano, singing, guitar, drums, stringed, and band instruments!

There are so many gifts that are quickly forgotten.  Candy gets eaten, flowers die, things get broken or lost, BUT, a gift of music lessons can never be lost, broken, or forgotten.  It literally lasts a lifetime!  The great thing about buying a gift certificate for music lessons at Melody Music Studios, is that we have a large network of instructors and guaranteed we’ll have the right instructor for that special someone.   Our gift certificate NEVER expire, and the recipient can choose the instructor right from our website at MelodyMusicStudios.com by clicking or taping their state, city, and any instructor’s bio on the list.  The instructor’s bio includes their background, performance recordings, and what we call the “meet the instructor” video.  It’s like a meet a greet with the instructor, so the recipient will feel like he or she knows the instructor personally before even starting the lessons.  

And, it’s so easy to purchase, by phone or on our website.  Simply go to our Gift Certificates page to enter your information, the recipient’s information, as well as the instrument and number of months you wish to purchase.  It automatically calculates the total before entering your credit card information.  If you would like to purchase by the lesson instead of by the month(s), simply call us at 800-Melody 1 (800-635-6391) to purchase just the right amount of lessons.  We’re happy to work within your budget and what works best for you and the recipient.  

We also offer on line lessons (skype, facetime, etc),  so no matter where the student may live or the instrument you choose, we have an instructor available.  For students that may live outside our area, or in a remote area where a music teacher is not available, this is the perfect solution!  Skype lessons are fast becoming a fun and easy way to take lessons, and it’s conveniently at home for both student and teacher.  Skype lessons are live, interactive lessons with an instructor (not a video), and is much the same as in-person lessons, except the interaction is through a computer, laptop, or tablet.  We have a large network of instructors that offer skype for all instruments to choose from.  At Melody Music Studios, only the very best instructors are chosen to be on our skype list, so you can be assured your special someone will receive the very best instruction possible.  

So instead of that old boring traditional gift, why not do something special and buy a gift certificate for piano, voice, guitar, drums, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute, or any instrument you can think of!  Not only is the gift of learning to sing or play an instrument a lifetime gift, he or she will remember YOU for a lifetime!  

Fall Music Recitals

Music Recital
Music Recital in Wilton, CT at Melody Music Studios

Fall and spring are my favorites times of year….why??  Because I, Kathi Kerr, owner and founder of Melody Music Studios, get to leave my office and travel to cities across the county to meet my staff of instructors and watch their students perform.  It’s great to see the results of the students’ hard work and discipline.  I also enjoy seeing the students have a great time showing family and friends what they’ve accomplished!  That’s what music recitals are all about!.   And for me, the icing on the cake is to see my staff and students in person.  Over the years, I’ve had the chance to watch the same students perform, and watch how he/she has grown, both musically, and in their confidence as they begin to master their skills of music.  


As I always tell my students, if learning to sing or play an instrument was easy, EVERYONE would be a musician.  But it isn’t easy, and it takes time, endurance, patience, and perseverance, to master an instrument or to sing.  So music recitals are what I call the “pat on the back” to show the student what a great job their doing.  And because of that, music recitals are an important part of the entire musical education.  It gives students a goal to work towards and motivates the student to practice.  Sometimes that little extra motivation goes a long way.  And when the student gets a feel for success, that’s enough to push them through what feels like “tedious” practice sessions.  I still remember times in my youth when I had a performance to practice for.  It can make all the difference in motivation to practice.  And the more a student practices, the better he or she will be, and the better he/she is, the more FUN it is to practice.  It’s what I call the “snowball” effect.  The more skill is developed, the more “fun” it is to play or practice, and in turn gives the student more motivation to practice.  It’s a “good” cycle.  

Although most of the students are children that perform in our recitals, we also have adult students that perform as well.  I especially enjoy having the adult students showcase their songs, and I believe their performance helps to motivate other adults to take lessons.  Often when adults call about signing up for music lessons, they’re first question is if we even offer lessons for adults.  My quirky answer is, “of course, anyone under the age of 99!”  Music lessons are not only for kids, but is a great thing for adults no matter their goal.  Most adult students just want to enjoy learning music, and at Melody  Music Studios, we’re happy to offer that.  Then at recital time, I love to see their performance, and know that what we offering is making a real difference in their lives.   

So keep on going students of all ages, and don’t give up!  It will pay off in your life, no matter what you choose for a career, or what your goal in life may be.  If music is your choice, this is a great way to get started.  But even if you don’t choose to be a musician or music teacher, you’ll have a life time skill of enjoyment as you come home from a hard day’s work and sing or play your favorite song!  Music is the color in a person’s life, that is otherwise only black and white.

Enter assistant Jaella!

Assistant at Melody Music Studios
Assistant at Melody Music Studios

Hi! My name is Jaella and I’m Kathi’s assistant here at Melody Music Studios. I didn’t start out that way, though. My journey has been a long and fruitful one, and I’m so blessed to be where I am now in my career and personal life. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I always grew up surrounded by music, even if I was the only one in my immediate family who decided to pursue it was a career. My grandfather had instilled a love of music in my mother, and as such, she always had some sort of musical on while I was growing up. Whether it was Shirley Temple movies, West Side Story, The King and I, or Fiddler on the Roof, there was always something on either the cassette player or popped into our VHS player (Kids, ask your parents what those are!)

Speaking of my grandfather, that’s really where my musical journey began. He had an old organ in his house and as a special treat, he’d ask me to play back a song that he’d just finished playing within 30 minutes. If I played it well, I’d get ice cream or candy or some other sort of treat. It was our fun little game that we played, and eventually I got really good at it. That was where my love of playing started, and it was only enforced at home through the constant stream of music playing through my house.

At the age of 10 my parents bought my first instrument: an old Casio keyboard. At that point, I was listening to film scores regularly and as soon as I had my hands on that instrument I began replicating the music I’d heard. My favorites were scores by Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Prince of Egypt, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, etc.) and my goal was to become a composer. I remember a chorus teacher of mine nicknamed me “Composer Girl” and it just stuck. It was through teachers like him that my love of music grew.

In 8th grade, I was selected to be in the more exclusive of the chorus programs in my school, and it was one of the best moments of my young career. It validated not only my love for music, but also my love of singing especially. I’d always sung in church, but never really branched out very much from that setting. I still dreamed of being a composer, but there were no music theory courses available to me at the time, so I refocused my efforts on vocal performance.

Throughout high school I was in every choir and ensemble I could get into, even auditioning for All-State Chorus. Although I didn’t make it in, that didn’t deter me from continuing to audition. During the school year I performed in local community choirs, as well as taking on music symposiums at Harding University during the summer. I absolutely loved performing and challenging myself to learn new, harder pieces. The music professionals in my life encouraged me to continue pursing my passion and I am so grateful for that encouragement.

During my Senior Year of high school I was able to take a music theory course. Well, actually, I fought to take a music theory course. Something in my schedule had gone awry and I appealed to the board of education to allow me to substitute a study hall with independent study Music Theory and won! I was fully committed to this career path and I was determined to excel at it. Having that one on one tuition with a teacher really helped me to not only grasp the concepts of music theory, but also understand how impactful a private teacher could be on a person’s life.

I attended my first semester of college at Harding University where I was able to perform in both large ensembles and as a soloist. I truly enjoyed every aspect of my time there, although health issues brought me back home shortly before the Spring semester began. Given those health issues, I took some time off to recover, then decided to go back to school at Georgian Court University.

The friendships that were made throughout my college career at both universities are lifelong friendships, truly. I didn’t just become friends with my fellow students, but also with the faculty. The music program at Georgian Court was small, so every class was practically a private lesson. I was so inspired by the professors that I decided to switch paths and pursue private teaching.

Enter: Melody Music Studios! In searching for a private teaching job, I came across Melody Music Studios. I really liked the atmosphere it provided, as well as the freedom it offered for me to truly work on my craft. Once I was hired, I was able to teach right away, and some of those students are still with me 5 years later! I taught Voice, Piano, Music Theory, and Saxophone, although with the birth of my first son I admittedly didn’t have time to practice that last instrument as much as I would have liked. Melody Music Studios provided me with the ability to inspire students, doing what I loved, all while going through the various stages of life. Whether I was a college student, preparing for my wedding, or raising my little boy, Melody Music Studios has helped me keep that spark alive and has only fostered my love for music even further.

When Kathi asked me to not only teach, but also be her assistant, I was honored to be asked and accepted. Although it was a slightly different line of work than I was used to, I quickly caught on and have been enjoying it ever since. It’s allowed me to work from home and watch my son grow up without sacrificing time freedom. Now, as I’m currently pregnant with my second son, I look forward to sharing my love of music with my boys as well as providing you or your loved one with music lessons that will inspire and excite your love for music.

Sincerely,

Jaella/Administrative Assistant at Melody Music Studios

Melody Music Studios-who are we anyway?

KathiKerrOwner

Hi, my name is Kathi Kerr, owner of Melody Music Studios.  I grew up in a musical family and started playing the piano before I can remember NOT playing the piano.  My dad plays the upright bass by ear, and my mom is a classically trained flutist, singer, and pianist.  Without realizing it, I had the best of both worlds, reading music and playing by ear!  I was self taught until 7th grade when a local piano teacher heard me play and offered to teach me…for free!  She heard my passion for playing the piano and wanted to guide me.  Of course my parents wouldn’t let her teach me for free, but through my years with her (through my senior year of high school) she helped guide my initial training, as there were gaps in my knowledge, of course.  My final training was at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where Julliard graduate, Mac McCray, took me from a raw talent to a well oiled pianist.  To this day, I hear his voice in my head when I practice.

During my college years, I never thought I would teach, I just wanted to perform!  But as a broke college student, I decided to give teaching piano a try, I mean it’s better than flipping burgers, right?  Since I didn’t have my own studio, I taught the students right in their own home.  No one was doing that at the time, but it was great for me and great for the student to play on their own piano during the lesson.  Once I saw the growth and changes in my students as they learned piano, I fell in love with teaching and seeing them turn it into their passion as well!  Before I knew it, I was in it full board!  I remember in those days using a pay phone to get my messages and returning calls from students.  I connected with a local music store, put up flyers on telephone poles, and did whatever I could to get more students.  Then I decided to put an (expensive) ad in the phone book (remember those???).  However, by the time the phone book came out, (and I was contracted to pay it for a year), I was booked!  So I talked to the store owner asking her what I should do.  She replied with an “off the cuff” comment, “why not farm them out to another piano instructor?”.  It was like a spotlight that went off in my head and the angels all singing in unison!  It was a moment in time that changed my life (and she probably doesn’t even remember saying it to me!).  So, the journey began to start hiring professional instructors to send students to.  I started with an adult intermediate student I was teaching at the time, and he said “Sure, I’ll take on beginner students…”  So Melody Music Studios was formed in 1989 with my first instructor teaching the students I sent his way.  Later that year, I opened a studio in Castro Valley, CA and started teaching privately and group keyboard classes from a book I wrote.  In 1990, I thought, why not add other instruments? So I began hiring music teachers that offered other instruments, like voice, guitar, drums, violin, any and all instruments.  In 1992, I moved my headquarters from the SF Bay area to Nashville TN.  With the help of technology, I opened my first “branch” in 2001 in Atlanta GA.  Since then I’ve opened up over 50 cities across the country, hiring instructors for all instruments, voice, and singing.

I still remember being told at the start of my teaching, that I would get tired of offering in home lessons.  But here I am, over 30 years later, still in love with offering both in home and studio lessons for my own students.  While my performing career has taken a back seat to teaching, I have no regrets because the feeling of giving to someone else is far greater than the feeling of “receiving applause” from an audience.

What makes Melody Music Studios unique is our passion for teaching…the business is my second passion.  I make sure to only hire the VERY best instructors with the same passion and love for teaching that I do.  I have two main philosophies:  1) Offer a positive and fun environment, where students can learn without feeling pressure and that mistakes are a part of the learning progress, yet being challenged at the same time, and 2) tailoring lessons to the individual in terms of their pace, interests and goals.  Also, the student can choose a traditional lesson (reading music) or by ear, where my roots came in handy!  There are many studios that teach ONLY classical and traditional, and some studios only offer by ear.  I believe that BOTH are equally important in terms of the full musical education of the student.  However, for a beginner student, it’s best to focus on one path at a time.  For the older student, he or she may only be interested in one way, either reading music or playing by ear.  I think it’s perfectly fine for a beginner student to choose one over the other, at least to get started, as you never know where it may lead!  Goals and interests may change and evolve during the course of the lessons.  We teach in a structured yet flexible way, and are happy to adjust to the interests and goals of each student as the lessons progress.

Our hope is to offer music lessons in a way that all can learn and enjoy the wonderful gift of music for their life time, for whatever may be his or her longtime goals in life.