You’re Never to Young or Old
The piano is a great instrument for a beginner of any age. Compared to other instruments, It’s easy to play right away. Just press a key and a (well-tuned) piano produces the correct note every time. After learning just a few notes, the student can play a simple, but familiar tune.
Learning to read music is fairly simple on piano. The key layout makes it easy to understand sharps and flats and build chords. These skills are important to progress on the piano but also transfer to other instruments a student may be interested in learning.
Pianos are sturdy and rarely need more than a good tuning once or twice a year. Used pianos in excellent condition can usually be found locally at a good price.
As a student advances, there are many opportunities to show off their skills and possibly make some money accompanying singers and other musicians, playing hymns at church, or performing music for weddings or other special events.
March Teacher Spotlights
Atlanta – Mitch Newbauer – guitar
Mitch received a banjo as a gift from his great uncle at age 6. His parents couldn’t find anyone to teach banjo, so he played guitar instead. He didn’t take to it right away, but his parents made him stick with it.
He’s been playing ever since and earned an associates degree in Jazz performance from McNally School of Music in Minneapolis and a Bachelors of Music in classical performance from Middle Tennessee State University. He still teaches with the classical guitar he practiced 8 hours a day while in school. “It definitely shows a great deal of wear but has the most personal history of any object that I’ve ever owned. I’ve performed, written songs, and taught on it for years,” he said.
His love of teaching began at age 14 and continues today with too many ‘best teaching experiences’ to mention. He particularly enjoys the challenge of some of his older students. “It’s especially great with them since guitar is what defines them in a large way,” he said. “One had his 70th birthday party recently, and got to actually get up on stage and jam with a band, which was a dream of his since he was a kid.”
Mitch has been working exclusively as a professional musician for nearly 8 years. With the encouragement of his wife and biggest supporter he left a corporate job and hasn’t looked back. “(It was) one of the best decisions I’ve made as an adult,” he said, “I still celebrate ‘Mitch Neubauer Day (on) May 18th – the day I quit my former job.”
“Always begin a piece of music with accuracy. No matter what speed you start at, always make sure you perfect your accuracy and timing first. Speed is the easy part, and a by-product of accuracy,” he said.
Houston – Brynn Montes – piano, voice
Brynn has been studying music since she was 5 years old when she chose to play the violin. She was terrified of the idea of playing in front of an audience and quit violin shortly before her first recital. She then moved on to piano and voice and became interested in theater.
Brynn studied music performance and voice at Columbia College in Chicago and music theory and piano at Sam Houston State University.
Her biggest supporters are her family, including her parents who have always encouraged her creative side and her brother, and fellow, LIYH teacher, Aaron. The pianos she grew up playing were family heirlooms, one from her grandmother and the other from her uncle. Both passed away when Brynn was very young, and she says that playing the pianos makes her feel closer to them.
Making all of her music lessons fun so her students will have a positive association with their music studies is something Brynn works hard to do. She once had a young piano student learning piano fingering. To help him understand which finger plays which key, she wrote numbers over each of his fingers. “It was funny to do, but actually really effective,” she said. She also enjoyed working with a student with autism.
Washington D.C. – Megan Sanchez – piano, voice, cello, violin, viola
Born and raised in South Dakota, Megan graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music specializing in opera from California State University Northridge. Her love of music started long before that. Megan grew up in a musical home, and as a toddler would press keys on the piano while her mother played. She continued studying piano through college.
In kindergarten, her Barbie dolls would sign to each other, rather than speak. She started playing viola in her elementary school orchestra, joined her middle school chorus and regularly participated in elite choirs. By high school she realized singing was not just her passion, but a calling.
After college, she taught herself violin and cello. “Music is a part of me, and I am incomplete without it,” she said! Her formal vocal study started in college with Diane Ketchie-Star, to whom she credits much of her success. “All of my skills as a vocalist and voice teacher I owe to her,” Megan said.
Once of her best teaching moments came when one of her voice students wrote an assignment entitled, “Who I Hope To Become” about Megan. “…I realized I was not just this girl’s voice coach, I was her role model. I felt so rewarded for always giving 100% because I had really made a difference,” Megan said.
Megan’s best tip for students is to always find the joy in music. Practice is important, she said, but the motivation to practice is more important. “Music can be used to express yourself in ways that words cannot. Music can be your outlet and your comfort. Best of all, music is forever and it is unique to each individual that creates it!
She often helps students make a professional and nicely mixed recording of themselves. This is just one motivational technique Megan employs, and she excels at helping students feel pride in their work. Overall, she wants to give the ability to learn music independently to students, as she believes it’s an amazing gift that can be enjoyed for the student’s entire life.
Megan was nominated by Washington DC Director, Heather Johnston, who says, “(Megan) is a fantastic instructor, and her students performed beautifully in our recital on 2/25. She is an excellent communicator and an inspiration to work with, as it is very apparent to those around her that she is a true artist, musician, and educator.”
Miami / South Florida – Mariadela Perez-Albela – guitar, piano, violin, voice, harmonica, mandolin
Born in Lima, Peru, Mariadela began playing music at age 3, jamming along on tambourine with a family member playing guitar and singing during a family birthday party. Growing up she sang and played guitar in Peru. Mariadela came to the U.S. to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Music at Mars Hill College in Western North Carolina and a Master’s degree in music therapy at Florida State University.
Mariadela has always loved playing guitar, but her first vocal coach in college thought she should stop focus 100% of her efforts on classical singing. After two semesters, Mariadela realized how much she missed playing guitar.
She happened to be in the right place at just the right time with her guitar when she met college professor, Cynthia Perkins. Perkins was directing a musical theater troop and needed someone to play a small part on the guitar for a number they were rehearsing. Mariadela immediately joined the production and then switched studio classes for voice lessons to work with Perkins. “On the first day, Cynthia had me play/sing an original song for her and taught me how to use a capo to adjust the tonality to my voice range. It was like magic and I felt great,” she said.
One of her best teaching experiences was with a student named Marie with no musical background, who wanted to write a song to perform at her son’s Bar Mitzvah. “Marie devoted six months of her life working on this project. She learned breath support, vocalizing, stage presence and performing. It was beautiful to see her dedication and inclusion of her whole family in the live performance of the song at the Bar Mitzvah,” she said.
Mariadela is a very resourceful, creative and ‘out-of-the-box teacher who enjoys working with special needs students. She once replaced a piano bench with a yoga ball for a 9-year-old with autism who had trouble concentrating during lessons and practice. “I implemented the ball and it was an instant success. He remained focused during the entire 30-minute lesson from that time going forward,” she said.
Her best tip for students is, “Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it. Never doubt your talent/gift and always give 100%,” she said.
Denver – Adam Green – flute, guitar, saxophone, woodwinds
Growing up in Kettering, OH, Adam was fortunate to be in a public school district with an outstanding music program. Adam always loved music class in elementary school and especially enjoyed learning the instrument most parents love to hate, the recorder. “It seems a silly instrument to most, but I still love that little recorder,” he said.
He continued music lessons through middle & high school, attended college at Wright State University and earned a Masters of Music in Saxophone Performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He’s been taught by many outstanding music teachers throughout his career but says Dr. Shelley Jagow at Wright State University is his most favorite. “Dr. Jagow is accomplished, compassionate and inspiring. She planted in me the lifestyle of ‘work hard, play hard’,” he said.
Throughout his teaching career, Adam has had many students accepted into prestigious ensembles and festivals as well as pursue music degrees at big-name universities. This is an inspiration to him and he loves seeing his former students advance into successful careers of their own. “One of my favorite saxophone students is now teaching 5-12 (grade) music, and seeing her growth from high school saxophonist to professional music educator has been incredibly cool,” he said.
Adam’s biggest supporter is his mother. “Driving me to lessons, paying for lessons, building my confidence, feeding me, inspiring me, putting up with my nonsense, etc. Her support has been unending,” he said. She also gave him one of his favorite instruments, a 175 Alvarez acoustic guitar. “It was a gift from my dad to my mom, but after I learned to play it, Mom said, It’s yours.’ When I write songs or play at bars or jam with friends, that’s the guitar I play, he said.
Adam was nominated by Denver Director, Alana Dym. Alana says, ” (Adam) has gone above and beyond to accept new students of many different instruments and different areas. He has also been recording awesome videos of himself playing these instruments and sending the videos to me to help attract students.”
Orlando – ErinWagoner – guitar, piano, voice
Music has been a part of Erin’s life since she started dance at age four. She was always singing so her parents introduced her to playing piano. In elementary school, Erin enjoyed music class and joined choir in middle school; starting to take music more seriously, participated in All-State and began performing in local community theater.
In high school, she taught herself to play guitar and started writing her own songs. Erin attended Rollins College in Florida where she earned a B.A. in vocal performance. She continues to participate in theater, musical theater and standup comedy performances in the Orlando area.
“Music has been one of the only true ways I’ve been able to impact the world. What drives me more than other people supporting me is the way music allows me to give back to the world. Currently, I’m planning to attend graduate school for music therapy to expand the level of assistance I’m able to offer others. I am looking forward to learning a new way to use music,” she said!
Erin met her favorite music professor while in school at Rollins, professor, Dr. Julia Foster-Rottmayer. Foster-Rottmayer taught Erin new singing techniques which she uses with her own students today. “Dr. Foster introduced me to teaching voice and helped me gain the confidence to pursue music professionally,” Erin said.
“Many musicians and artists can be critical of themselves. It is important to try to find people in your life who encourage you not to listen to your doubts and inspire you to achieve your goals.”
“As far as my voice is concerned, it took me a long time to really feel comfortable singing. The human voice is amazingly adaptable and constantly changing. It can be frustrating having your instrument change on you all the time.”
Erin’s best tip for students is, “Failure is not the end. Give yourself time to learn and grown adjust to new experiences. Learning music will take time and commitment. Don’t give up if progress seems slow,” she said.
Seattle – Denise Miersma – piano
Denise began playing piano at the age of 8 when her parents wanted her and her sister to learn to play. As she grew up, she used her piano skills to accompany her school choirs, many ensembles and soloists, and also played piano and organ for her church.
In college, she studied Piano Performance at Cal State, Fullerton. There she met her favorite piano teacher, college professor, Dr. M’lou Dietzer. Dietzer emphasized technique and scales as part of repertoire. She required scales be played in four octaves in 16th notes with a metronome at a progressively faster pace each year of study.
Denise has been teaching for over 35 years and is known for being a patient and thorough teacher. She recalls a time, early in her teaching career when she asked a young piano student if he knew what a half step or whole step was. The student jumped up and took a very small step forward, a ‘half step; and then a giant step forward, a ‘whole step’. It was a funny moment that Denise thinks of every time she teaches half/whole steps.
Her best tip for students is teaching the D flat major scale by patterns and clusters, not by notes or letter names – two fingers on the group of two black keys, fingers 2-3-4 on the group of 3 black keys and thumbs on F and C.
Denise’s biggest supporters are her son and two daughters who are always encouraging her.
Denise was nominated for teacher of the month by Seattle Director, Scott D’Angelo who says she is one of the best teachers in Seattle. “She has a great plan for teaching, and her families love her. I often have new families asking if Denise Miersma is available to teach because they have heard good things about Denise from families that she teaches. Denise is also having her own recital for her students on March 26th,” he said.
Welcome New Students