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.