April Teacher Spotlights
Atlanta – Joseph D’Amico
Joseph started playing music by ear in middle school as something fun to do. When he was in high school, a friend purchased a month of music lessons for him. The teacher was a good match and two years later he started college as a music major at Young Harris College in Georgia and later studied piano performance at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA.
Joseph particularly enjoyed the logic and challenge. “…I can say that my original attraction to studying music was the puzzle solving element of it. Music is often much more logical than most people give credit, and that idea sustained my interest,” he said.
Dr. Keith DeFoor, professor at Young Harris College is Joseph’s favorite music teacher. “He had the perfect blend of toughness and hand holding and he really challenged me to develop a more academic approach to music. He was also hilarious, and that always help,” he said.
Joseph’s favorite teaching moment is when his students learn to apply what they’ve learned. “I am passionate on counting accurately and really understanding the rhythmic construction of a piece. It’s easy to just hear and repeat things, but I always feel victorious as a teacher when a student first learns to demonstrate these skills to figure out a passage without my help,” he said.
His best tip for students is to become self-sufficient. “Think of a teacher as a guide who shows you where to go, but you must go there if you wish to be great. One of the best possible outcomes with music lessons is the developing of discipline and becoming goal oriented,” he said.
Joseph has a Yamaha U1 piano which he purchased used when he was finishing up his degree at Kennesaw State University. “It has significance to me because it was my first serious piano. I still have it and enjoy practicing on it frequently,” he said.
Houston – Rachel Barron – cello, violin
Rachel began playing cello in 6th grade. An older friend had shown Rachel her cello and she immediately knew that was the instrument she wanted to learn.
She was fortunate to be a part of a highly skilled high school orchestra that began her music education. She also attended music camps at North Texas College and Baylor University. The majority of Rachel’s music education has come from experience and she is currently working towards a teaching certificate.
Her favorite teacher is her high school orchestra director, David McCutchan, who continually pushed her to be a better musician. “He saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself. I knew I loved playing, but didn’t become a good musician until somewhere between ninth and tenth grade. (McCutchan) made sure I always had opportunities to challenge myself musically, and taught me how to be a good musician through discipline and encouragement,” she said.
Rachel loves to encourage her students to go above and beyond what they think they are capable of and finds it very rewarding when they see themselves succeeding. “Anytime I have a student achieve something they didn’t think they could, I get so excited for them,” she said.
“Practice, practice, practice” is Rachel’s best tip to students. “That’s really the best way to get to know your instrument and music. Look up technique exercises to help you with your playing. Besides that, listen to those who are teaching you, they know because they’ve been there before,” she said.
Rachel bought her cello online and had to put some work into it to upgrade it, but that has paid off and it sound great now, she said.
Washington D.C. – Tony Porreco – bass guitar, guitar, ukulele
Tony has enjoyed music since he was a small child, always singing along to the car radio and singing hymns at church on the weekends.
He began playing alto saxophone in his elementary school band at age 10 and tenor saxophone in high school at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. When he was 15, he began teaching himself to play guitar, which became his primary instrument.
The late Christopher Flannery, Tony’s high school band director is his favorite teacher. “He approached instruction with a wonderful blend of both non-sensical humor … and an emphasis on professional-level preparedness and performance,” he said.
Tony’s best teaching experience came last spring with an adult student with no musical experience. As a surprise to his wife, the student wanted to learn guitar and play a specific song at a family wedding in the fall. With only a limited time to progress from novice to performance ready, Tony provided the student with the instruction he needed to pull it off. “It was crazy and so heartwarming to know that our lessons were all part of a special surprise he was arranging for his wife and other family members and it was a wonderful endeavor to be a part of,” he said.
Tony’s best tip for students is to approach your instrument with a specific goal for a practice session and a sense of curiosity. “Often, we don’t want to do things, like practice, because it feels crummy to observe yourself doing something poorly. In moments like this, I think about what ‘s the next smallest goal….and spend some time on it, but then also allow yourself to see what happens when you DON’T play it correctly or play something like it, which is often something you’ll find cool or interesting,” he said. Tony designs all his lessons around his students’ interest and teaches technique and theory from the standpoint of their favorite artists.
A Fender Telecaster Deluxe, purchased in 2012, is Tony’s primary instrument. “It’s a wonderful guitar with single coil pickups and a very bright tone that works great for the high energy indie rock stylings I bring to my live performances,” he said. Tony plays in a band, called “ Boys Choir”, led by his long-time friend and biggest supporter, Kevin de Souza. “(Kevin) is an amazing musician and bassist, and in a lot of ways, I really regard him as a coach I and the other band members work with to develop excellent arrangements of the songs he writes for the band.”
Miami / South Florida – Chris Valente – bass guitar, guitar, ukulele
Inspired by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Chris started playing guitar at age 12. He went on to study music at Newark School of the Arts, William Patterns University and Eastman School of Music.
JP Dourghty from Monmoth Community College is Chris’ favorite teacher. “He got me into ear training and transcribing jazz solos which was helpful in all aspects of my performance and musical understanding,” Chris said.
An Ibanez JS1000 is Chris’ instrument of choice. He says it’s his ‘automatic generator’ of melodic and harmonic ideas, an extension of his soul.
As a teacher, Chris stresses technique and theory to help his students with whatever they want to learn. “Rhythm, timbre and dynamic are the building blocks for everything you do,” he said, “Start with things you can do so you can gain some forward momentum.”
His best teaching experience has come from teaching students to sequence drums to enhance their rhythmic and syncopation understanding while providing a more fun experience for playing along with a metronome.
The craziest thing Chris has ever done for a student is “multitracked sequenced backing tracks so that the student can mute or play along with their part while reading the corresponding music.”
Denver – Reggie Berg – piano
Because his mother ‘made him’, Reggie started playing music at age 5. He went on to study music at Interlochen Arts Academy, Eastman School of Music, Mannes College of Music and University of Denver.
Reggie recently started teaching young children, which was scary for him because he was out of his element. So far, it’s gone well and he’s found it rewarding. “There’s something really gratifying about seeing that a young child finds joy in music, and in learning and knowing that without your guidance, they wouldn’t have discovered, at last not yet,” he said.
His best tip for students is to stick with lessons. “If you don’t like the music at first, that’s fine. Just keep doing it little by little and see where it goes. If you do like it, but feel like ‘I’m never going to be good enough and there’s so much to learn,’ well, …those thoughts are normal musician neurosis that follows all of us our whole music lives. So, intend focus on the job of music, the comradery you are a creating with you and the people you play with and for, and be open to things you don’t know.” “Get exposed to all styles and genres and learn to appreciate all forms of music.”
Reggie works hard to connect with his students and says he’s very good at intuitively knowing what is holding them back. Some don’t take lessons seriously and it’s up to him to help them build discipline. Others are too serious and Reggie’s job is to help them relax and enjoy music. One of his students always got nervous when playing, due to over thinking. To help her overcome this, Reggie came to the lesson dressed as Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. His student laughed the entire lesson, even when she made mistakes, which helped her understand that she needed to relax and have fun while playing.
His biggest supporter is Jazz Violinist, Christian Howes. Howes’ is Reggie’s music business coach. “I would highly recommend him to every freelancing musician who’s looking to improve their career in any way,” he said, “He’s always there for me, at any time of the day, giving me a great answer about what to do next.”
When Reggie went to New York City for school, his mother sold the small upright piano he grew up with. Although he hopes to have an apartment of his own and a grand piano in the next five years, he’s met many great pianists who only have keyboards and his two keyboards, a CASIOPrivia-150 and CASIO PX-5s, have served him well.
Orlando – Terran Fernandez – bass guitar, guitar
Seattle – Alice Yoo – piano, violin
Alice starting playing violin at the age of 5 because she saw an orchestra concert and asked her mom to play violin. A year later, she began playing piano. She entered the pre-college program at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City when she was 10 years old. Alice received graduating honors from Juilliard in music theory and solfege.
She has had many performances throughout her musical career, including her piano debut at Carnegie Hall at age 10. She has performed with the Sound Symphony as the winner of the solo concert performer competition. Alice participated in the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria. Alice has played violin in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra.
Alice’s violin teacher, Christine Dethier, was her favorite because she was nurturing, kind and had a sense of humor. “She emphasized the musical interpretation of playing music rather than the technical side,” Alice said.
Her violin is a John Juzek, manufactured in 1911.
Although she has only been with Lessons a few months, she really enjoys teaching. Alice was nominated as Teacher of the Month by Denver Director, Scott D’Angelo. “Alice has been on LIYH staff since the beginning of February, and she is excited for students. Since coming on staff, Alice has picked up about 10 students, and I have only heard good reports about (her) and her students. She is eager to take on more students!”
Welcome New Students
Magdalee J. taking piano lessons in Altamonte Springs with Les Alker
John T. taking piano lessons in Altamonte Springs with Les Walker
Keshly S. taking guitar lessons in Orlando with Micah Tappe
Alexia S. taking violin lessons in Winter Park with Jennifer Guo
Joshua M. taking piano lessons in Orlando with Monica Wilkinson
Sanjana A. taking guitar lessons in Orlando with Marty Grosso
Tony B. taking guitar lessons in Ovideo with Marty Grosso
Peter Z. taking piano lessons in Winter Garden with Les Walker
Daniel Mansour taking piano lessons in Altamonte Springs with Sarah Stanley