Meet Anna, Our Violin Teacher in Cleveland TN

“Music can open up opportunities and experience other cultures and make connections with like minded people in a way that almost no other discipline can”.

Hello! My name is Anna, and I have been playing music since I was four years old. I am 23 now, so that makes about 19 years! I have always enjoyed listening for harmonies and the chord progression behind the pieces and songs I would play. From an early age, I would learn my Suzuki Method pieces by singing them and humming them throughout the day. After awhile I would have them memorized because I was constantly going over them in my head. This is also something that caused me to fall in love with music. I would prepare for recitals by playing the notes on the page, but I really liked to improvise my own tunes too. This was an activity that made me realize how infinite and inspiring music can be. 

My first recital!

When I was in the third grade, I tried out for an orchestra for elementary schoolers, in Northern Kentucky. I made the orchestra and this was the first time other than my mother’s chamber music groups where I got to listen to all the parts together. I now had access not only to the violin part, but also to the cello, viola and bass parts, as well. I loved preparing pieces for our concerts, where we would play in the Northern Kentucky University auditorium and I actually had the experience of playing on stage in front of an audience. This made violin playing feel very serious and real to me, and it made me want to get even better. Around that time I also played at numerous recitals, which my mom, a violin teacher herself, put on at nursing homes and our elementary school for Christmas. I think that playing the duets and solos at those shows in front of other people gave me a boost in confidence and also provided the training I would need for auditions, because it was one thing to play a piece in front of your family member or even to have a piece down pat on your own, but to play it in front of people you don’t know can be a bit more nerve-racking. The next year I auditioned for Cincinnati Junior Strings, a kids’ orchestra in Cincinnati that was a little more competitive because its goal was to prepare kids to play in the CSYO, or Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. I got into the orchestra and made amazing friends, because every Sunday, we had rehearsal and during the break times I got to talk to the other students who were learning the violin just like I was. This orchestra gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when in the summer of 2008 I was able to go on a trip with the ensemble to New Zealand and Australia in the CJS “Down Under” Tour! My conductor, Dr. Gerald Doan, had many friends and connections in that part of the world and took his students there every four years to play at schools and churches and sight see the beautiful landscape. It was the first time I got to really experience another culture, and I thought it was marvelous. I still look up articles from Wellington New Zealand, Sydney Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand every once in awhile because it brings back memories of that extraordinary experience for me! All this to say, music can open up opportunities for you to experience other cultures and make connections with like minded people in a way that almost no other discipline can. I had a blast staying with host families there and playing the songs we had practiced so hard in the local schools. I feel like we also brought a treat to the schools that we played at. 

Original music by Anna!

In high school, I played in two orchestras in different years: Blue Ash Youth Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. Both were a wonderful experience. I auditioned my freshman year for the more competitive city-wide orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Youth, and didn’t make it my first year, but that just became part of my story because the next year I practiced seven to eight hours a day in the summer before my audition because I was determined to make it! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I made it, and in Cincinnati Symphony Youth I got to play not only with other string players but with brass, woodwinds and percussion as well. Some pieces even called for elaborate piano parts! We played fun pieces like Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Classical masterpieces like those by Franck and Debussy. I loved playing in a high school orchestra because everyone behaved themselves so professionally and played with mastery and poise. It also helped to grow my spirit of adventure and passion for creating music because I was constantly listening to all the parts and trying to add my own riffs and harmonies and melodies (not in rehearsal or concerts, just in my head and numerous journal entries!). I write songs in my spare time and I see my experience in orchestra as where that all began. I think what can set a skilled musician’s songs apart is how elaborate their pieces become because they have been listening for all the layers of the music for so long. I hope to instill these same values of creativity and wonder in my students. One of the things I want to do when I teach is to play the chord progressions that you may not be hearing so that you can train your ear to listen for all the beautiful treasures hidden beneath just the notes on the page. For instance, even just the simple beginning tune Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has a variation part that goes along with it that I will play for my beginning students on the violin while they are learning it. I used to teach free lessons in a church ministry in high school and when I played these variations and harmonies with the students, they became noticeably more engaged with the material. It helped them to want to practice so that the could keep up and play in time with the beautiful variation, and in turn it causes them to strive for a beautiful sound when they were playing, too.

Meet Anna!

I also love to improvise and I hope to be able to work on that with all of my students as well. I believe improv is a valuable skill because it has allowed me to just pick my instrument up and play something that can touch other people’s hearts with ease instead of having to rifle through a book to find what I’m going to play. Both sight-reading and playing by ear are important in my opinion, but I would love to teach a mix of both so that my students can do either if they want to.

Thank you for checking out my page, and I hope to hear your story with music when we meet in a lesson!

Sign up for violin lessons with Anna and get started today!

My Journeys in a Paper Boat

Guitar lessons Norwalk CT

By Annalisa

Annalisa-classical guitar instructor and performer in Norwalk CT
Live performance audio from Annalisa

“For me the musical journey began when I heard the wind in the cornfield next to our house. I knew with the sublime wisdom of a three-year-old that it was speaking.”

“Many years later, at the age of ten, I began to study the guitar, which my mother insisted I practice daily in her hearing for twenty minutes a day for two years after which I could quit. Well, by then she couldn’t get me away from it; the guitar had become my friend as much as the family dog.”

“For a few more years, I continued playing guitar, sang in a demanding choir (by ear! since reading had somehow passed me by at that point), became an apprentice peal-bell ringer at Washington Cathedral and built a harpsichord from a kit (NOT Ikea) before Sophocles Papas, acolyte of Spanish guitar legend Andrés Segovia, and himself high priest of the classical guitar in America invited me to study with him.”

“I accepted and studied with him as his protegee, being “groomed for the concert stage” as he put it, until leaving for college at my parents’ insistence that I complete my academic studies first. Unable to resist a challenge I entered college early and attempted to keep up with my guitar at the same time. Rather than lose the music to academe I left for conservatory (San Francisco) after sophomore year at college (St. John’s, Annapolis, dubbed “the Great Books School” for its unusual seminar-based curriculum).”

“Back with music as the center of my life, I gleaned a great deal from my studies in San Francisco then met a staggeringly talented guitarist/composer/baroque guitarist (Karl Herreshoff, an underground “cult” figure from the Paul Winter Consort) who took me on as a private student. His approach was both rigorous and highly artistic. Through him I was exposed to a flamenco troupe which ignited a passion for Spanish guitar. This thread has continued and I recently completed a collection of my own transcriptions of Argentinian tango for guitar.”

“Voyaging on, eventually I returned to conservatory at Bard College where I earned a performance degree in classical guitar. There entered the man who would be my mentor for the next twenty years: Patrick O’Brien. He was simply “the center of our universe” to many early musicians. He was both an internationally sought-after teacher for baroque performance practice and a marvelous performer. When Juilliard wanted to start a department of Historical Plucked Strings, they hired Pat. He held the position for the last two years of his life, and was succeeded by not one but
two of his best students, now masters in their own right.”

“These days I teach Suzuki guitar to young children, traditional classical guitar to adults, perform a great deal of Latin American guitar music and have launched Circe’s Consort, my own early music “band” exploring little heard music of the 16th and 17th centuries.”

“I have been profoundly gifted with great teachers and am very gratified to be able to share all I have learned with my students. “Building a player” as Pat put it, is a deep experience for both teacher and student. I am privileged to be called to this profession.”

For more information on Annalisa, you can find her full bio, including videos, location, and schedule.  Sign up today for in home or studio lessons with Annalisa.

 

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.”

To view Laura’s full bio, click here for her location, rates, schedule, and to sign up today!

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.