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Student of the Month: Keshav Viradia, Drum Lessons


IMG_6763 (1).jpgThis month we’re congratulating Keshav Viradia on winning November’s Student of the Month Award!! Keshav is an 11 year old drum lesson student and has been attending HAA for over 6 years.

What do you like about your teacher and the way he plays and teaches music? I really like how my teacher is loose, but still can guide me though. He teaches like the student is his friend, which helps me focus.

You’ve been with us for many years. What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? I love how playing a instrument can lead to so many opportunities, especially at HAA.

What kind of music do you like to listen to in your free time? I mainly listen to dubstep, like Skrillex and Teminite.

We interviewed you last year because of an important award you received. What’s new in your life since? I have actually quit piano, which is what I got that award for. I have moved to drums and I started to play the flute for my school. I am now in 6th grade.

What’s next for Keshav? What new skills are you developing: sports, hobbies, etc.? I have continued to play tennis, and I have been playing for 7 years. I am shooting for the high school team.

Faculty of the Month: Brian Green, Guitar


This month, we are spotlighting Brian Green, one of our most successful Guitar Teachers. We’re fortunate for having Brian on board, and can’t wait to share with you the interview we had with him.

When did you start playing music and what inspired you to get started? My parents always had music playing, many different genres. I’ve always felt deeply about sounds that I would hear in music, and lyrical meaning through melody impacted me a lot. I began playing music around age 10 when my parents had me take piano lessons. I remember doing well but not being very interested in practicing at the time. I think the lessons only lasted a couple of years. I did much better when, as a teenager, I joined bands and was learning on my own. It was later in my adulthood that I really began to take music seriously enough to formally study it and try to better my understanding of music. I’ve always been inspired by the creative element of music and music’s ability to change us. 

Why did you choose guitar as your instrument, and what is special about it (in your opinion)? I love theBrian_Green_Guitar_Teacher_Flemington_NJ diversity of sound that guitars can produce, from the intimacy of playing solo arrangements and chordal melodies to playing electric guitar through a pedal board and creating interesting effects. I like the challenge that it has to offer, particularly in terms of blending chord harmonies and single note melodies.

You have your own band. Can you tell our readers more about it? I’ve recently been performing in two bands, The Poet, Ebenezer and Sourland. Both of these bands fall into the indy rock genre. Currently, Sourland is the band I am performing more consistently with, playing gigs in Lambertville, New Hope, and various other Hunterdon County venues.

You are very successful as a guitar teacher and you have a very high student retention rate. What is your secret? Every student is different and learns differently. My goal as a teacher is to help my guitar students become the best musicians they can be and to be sensitive to each student’s needs. I seek to foster a positive experience in the classroom and help to guide them in their own personal, musical journey. I also feel that vulnerability as a teacher is important, and also to allow myself to be taught by my students. There are so many things that students are trying to understand that they inevitably ask questions, or bring up certain ideas that really cause me to think hard and learn. A bass guitar teacher that I had for a while told me that “if you teach once, you learn twice…” As a teacher I also have to remain a student and I think that is reflected onto my students and hopefully inspires them to continue studying and learning, and most importantly to enjoy playing music, because that is what it is all about.

What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? Hunterdon Academy of the Arts has been a fantastic community to be part of. Everyone is friendly and attentive to both students and teachers.

Other than music, what are your interests and hobbies? I love surfing, reading, riding my bike, walking in cities, drawing and painting, and going to art galleries, and hanging out with artists and musicians.

Schedule a Guitar Lesson with Brian!

Student of the Month: Leo Allentoff, Piano and Clarinet


Hearty congratulations to Leo Allentoff on winning September's Student of the Month Award!! Leo is 12 years old and has been attending HAA for the past 7 years.

What instruments do you play? I
play the piano and clarinet.

What do you like about each instrument and how do you find time to practice both? What I like about eachLeo_Allentoff_Aug_2016-627540-edited.jpg instrument is that they both have a big range of notes they can play. Also both instruments have a very unique sound and can be used to play many different styles of music. I feel that if you really enjoy playing an instrument, it is very easy to find time to practice. This is because you can’t wait to play and so the first opportunity you get to practice, you will want to do it. This is the case for me.

Your sister also takes music lessons at HAA and music seems to run in the family. What are your family’s favorite music activities? Do you ever play together? My family’s favorite musical activities are listening to various types of music and playing instruments together. My dad sometimes plays with me and my sister. He likes to accompany me by playing on the piano while I play on either the piano or clarinet. We also sometimes have little recitals where my sister or I play in front of the whole family.

You’ve been with us for many years. What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? The thing I like about Hunterdon Academy of the Arts is that all of the teachers I have had so far are friendly, motivating, and help me really improve in my playing.

What kind of music do you like to listen to in your free time? I listen to classical and pop music in my free time. I especially like listening to Baroque composers like Bach and Handel.

What would you like to do when you grow up? Any plans to study music? I would like to be a chemist or an engineer when I grow up. While I don’t have plans to study music professionally in the future, I will still enjoy playing and listening to music.

Other than music, what are your favorite activities? One of my favorite activities besides music is playing soccer and watching sports; I’m a big fan of NASCAR racing and the New York Mets. I also enjoy sitting down and reading a good book.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself? I enjoy going to music concerts and watching live productions of musicals. I am learning Chinese and I have been to China five times. This is because some of my relatives live in China. I play clarinet in my school band and I have performed piano duets with classmates at school which were played over the loud speaker so everyone at my school could hear us. My goals as a musician are to be able to play challenging pieces on the piano and clarinet.

Faculty Showcase: Kristen Todd, Piano


This month we're congratulating Piano Instructor Kristen Todd on having received HAA's Teacher of the Month Award! Kristen has been with us for several years and proven to be a great Piano Lesson Teacher. In the excellent interview we had with her (see below), Kristen talks about her love of the piano and her passion for music and teaching, among other topics. Enjoy!

When did you start playing piano and what made you fall in love with it? I started playing piano at the ripe old age of 9 (relative to many children who now start at the age of 4 or 5).  Believe it or not, I really disliked practicing and my piano teacher was extremely patient with me for the first few years of lessons.  Then, in about 7th and 8th grade, I played a few pieces by Johann Burgmuller, and I absolutely LOVED playing them.  I became much more willing to practice after having played “real” literature and learning that I could challenge myself to longer and more difficult repertoire.  My wonderful and patient teacher nurtured me and gave me as many opportunities to perform for others as she could (this included playing at nursing homes, church services, as well as local competitions and recitals).  I am so grateful to her for nurturing me as a piano student, but more importantly, nurturing me as a growing human-being and being aware of all my other interests such as marching band, 4-H, working on the farm, and my school’s Academic Challenge team.   

You have a Master's Degree in piano pedagogy, so you have many years of studies under your belt. WhatPiano Lessons Flemington NJ would be the one (most important) thing you learned from your students, though, and not from your professors? Ah, excellent question, and I’m so glad you asked it, because I think that this is one of the most important ideas in my teaching philosophy.  I continue to learn things from my piano lesson students every single day, whether small or big, music-related or non-music related). And each thing that they teach me is so enriching.  They might teach me about a rule in the game of baseball, or who has the best record in the NFL, or about geography, or science, or about some new band/artist that they love.  Every single one of these is just as important as the other because they teach me about being a multifaceted human being and the power and potential that we as humans have with our interests and love for other subjects and aspects of life. I learn things about learning on a daily basis (how does each student learn, and how can I foster and challenge them in a way that is well-balanced?)  And through the students’ learning, I also learn about my own learning!   

Who is your favorite composer and why? For this one, I couldn’t possibly choose a single favorite.  Instead, I’d like to say that my favorite thing to do is learn about many composers all throughout music history and form a more all-encompassing understanding of the evolution of music.  It seems daunting, but I think that’s one of the exciting things about being a musician.  Learning about composers of the medieval and Renaissance periods are just as important as the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc., because this allows one to recognize similarities and differences between eras.  For example, I love J.S. Bach:  in short, he is a genius and his music touches me on an intellectual, spiritual, and musical level.  But I also love bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and one of my recent favorites are Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers.  Chris Thile is a true genius, playing the mandolin, which is well-suited to the bluegrass genre; but he composes extremely interesting, forward-looking music while always having an understanding of the past.  Aside from composing new music, a current project of his is learning Partitas and Sonatas for the violin, by J.S. Bach (on the mandolin, of course).  His attitude toward music is the epitome of what I wish upon myself, and my students, so I’d highly encourage listening to his music or any video in which he speaks about music.   Always be willing to immerse yourself in a composer/artist that deeply interests you (or even one that doesn’t interest you, because I promise that you will still learn something from him/her and appreciate music in a different light).  BUT also, always be willing to explore and find new composers/artists.  Learning about someone new guarantees you to broaden your knowledge of music and styles.    

Who is your favorite concert pianist? Again, similarly to my attitude toward my “favorite composer,” I couldn’t possibly choose only one.  There are many greats such as Artur Schnabel, Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Argerich, Glenn Gould, Mitsuko Uchida, Krystian Zimerman, Daniel Barenboim, and I could go on and on as to why I love each of these pianists.  But I also love performers such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones (from Led Zeppelin), Brad Mehldau (jazz pianist), Ray Manzarek (the Doors), Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake and Palmer), and so many others!  Each of these artists has something valuable to offer the realm of keyboard playing, and I think that each must have listened to a ton of music him/herself, and also continually practice and hone their skills to become the creative artist that they were or are.     

You are a classically trained pianist, but you also accompanied one of our teacher bands in the past. What was that like?  Awesome!  Actually, I was in a band in high school, and we played a lot of cover songs of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, My Chemical Romance…and the list goes on.  So playing in the band at HAA with other teachers was a great chance for me to play like that again!   I love playing rock music and it keeps my ears sharp (listening carefully to the others, and also learning songs by ear versus notation), but most importantly because it is so much FUN!      

What do you wish for your students in terms of their future in music? I hope that music will always have a part in each student’s life, no matter how big or small.  No matter what career path you choose, I hope that your appreciation of music will help you to find beauty in all that you do.  Perhaps you will choose to be a scientist or a mathematician, but I hope that you will continue to play or listen as it pleases you and enriches your life.  

What is the most exciting thing about being a music teacher? Growth:  musical growth, intellectual growth, and growth as a well-rounded human being.  I love witnessing students of all ages and abilities grow and begin to realize their potential.  Along those lines, it’s an exciting time when a student has an ambition to learn about something they choose:  perhaps he would like to dabble in composing, or perhaps she wants to learn how to read chord symbols and analyze a piece.  When a student has these moments of realization, I see them flourish as a result of their own motivation.      

What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? Learning and connecting!  Just as I learn from my students, I also learn from others at HAA.  Speaking with other teachers, parents, students, and staff about their lives and experiences helps me to feel more connected to others instead of being isolated in some piano room for many hours a day.  I also love forming relationships with other teachers and staff who are passionate about music and the arts, and serving the students of the community ☺  

Other than music, what are your interests and hobbies? One of the most important things to me, outside of music and learning, is physical fitness.  Ever since college, I’ve loved running and this fall I’m running my first half-marathon!  I’ve also recently become an avid cyclist and love to ride my bike.  This summer, I rode my first century (100-mile ride), and also rode throughout Italy for a few weeks, exploring both mountainous and flat territory.  Being physically active is something that I enjoy, but also a necessity in life.  I find that it helps me to be in a better mood and feel good (which is a positive for me AND my students).  I also minored in history in college, and I love always reading and learning about history!       

Learn More about Kristen Todd Here!

Faculty Showcase: Wade Stoneback, Piano


In August, we’d like to showcase Wade Stoneback, a particularly successful piano teacher at our Lebanon Campus. Wade has been with us for several years. He teaches a great variety of musical styles, and his students love him. In below interview, Wade talks about his approach to teaching and his musical interests.

You are a very popular piano instructor at our Lebanon location. What is your teaching secret and how doPiano Lessons Flemington you keep your students motivated to practice? I think it is important to work on pieces of music that the students are interested in. I love when students approach me with a song that they want to learn. I have some students who want to learn either a certain Bach piece or Chopin piece, but other students who may want to learn the new “21 Pilots” song they heard on the radio. Certainly the Lesson books are important (and still must be incorporated into piano practice), but we can take the concepts they are learning from the Lesson books and apply them to whatever piece they want to learn. If a student is truly motivated to learn a piece of music of their own choosing, then practice at home will come naturally.

When did you start 
playing piano and why did you choose this particular instrument? I didn’t start playing piano until I was in 9 th grade. I played trumpet since 4 th grade, but I wanted to learn the piano when I really started listening to music more and more on the radio. I loved that classic sound of hearing a singer accompany themselves on the piano. No matter what the song, I was drawn to the ones that had piano or synthesizer in them.

What is your favorite composer and why? Mozart is my favorite composer. He was the master of writing melodies that are not only very complex, but also very pleasing to listen to. Also, because Mozart’s music is so flowing and eloquent, many listeners think it must be easy to perform. However, it is one thing to be able to read through a Mozart piano sonata, but it is a different matter entirely to play it well.

You also teach popular music. Who is your favorite performing artist and why? My favorite artist is Billy Joel. He not only is a great composer, but also a very gifted performer. Many times on stage he is playing a very complex piano part while at the same time singing a melody – very hard to do, but he makes it look so easy. Having said that, I am also very inspired by the great Progressive Rock artists of the 70’s and 80’s - great bands like Rush, Styx, Kansas, Yes, and Genesis. Their style of writing is very majestic, and their use of piano and synthesizers in their music made me perceive the keyboard as a very “cool” instrument.

What do you enjoy most about teaching piano lessons? I love seeing the spark in a student’s eye when they get it - meaning that “a-ha” moment when a musical concept sinks in and a student has an understanding of what is going on musically. I love teaching the theory behind what a piece of music is trying to say – it’s like music dissection, very rewarding.

What is the biggest challenge for music teachers? The biggest challenge for me is teaching a student who is taking lessons not because they want to, but only because their parents want them to. Musical success always has to come from within the individual. I have never had success with a student who has no desire to play.

What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? I like the fact that as I teach, there are also other teachers teaching students in other studios at the same time. There’s a feeling of camaraderie among the teachers and students. When walking through the hall, it’s fun to hear other students learning their instruments. It’s great to be part of a staff that is passing on their love of music to others. It’s definitely a musical family that I’m glad to be part of.

Other than music, what are your interests and hobbies? Spending time with my wife and daughter… and watching every NY Mets game that I can!

Read More about Wade Here!

Student of the Month: Mikyla Scott


Hearty Congratulations to Mikyla Scott, on receiving this month’s Student of the Month Award! In below interview with us, Mikyla talks about the importance of music in her life, and her passion for singing and stage performance.

How old are you, and when did you first join Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? I am 14 years old and I joined the Academy when I was in 5th grade.

Who have been your HAA teachers? My HAA teachers have been Mrs. Nagy, Adam Kishbauch, Gina [DiPalermo],  Miss. Amanda [Prakopcyk] for piano, and I was in the younger choir for two years with different directors.

You are a talented singer, you perform a lot in the community and you are also a member of our
True Voice Project group. How do you find time for music as a busy high school student? I find music to be aMikyla_Scott-1.jpg really important part of my life so I make time for it. School work comes first but I always find opportunities to do other music activities outside of school.

You seem to enjoy being on stage. What is it about performing that you like the most? I love to be on stage and just rock out because it gives me this amazing rush of excitement and happiness. I love hearing the sound of people clapping along to the song and the cheers at the end make me so proud.

Do you ever get nervous before a performance? What’s your advice on overcoming stage fright? I do get nervous before performing but I’m way more excited so that feeling normally overpowers the nervousness. Some advice I would give to people would be to if u are afraid that you are gonna mess up think about the things that could go wrong and then have a plan for what you would do in that situation. Most of the time we worry about things that probably won’t even happen.

How do you feel about songwriting? Any plans to write your own music? When I was younger I wrote songs all the time that when I look at them now I laugh at how silly they are. I have tried writing some music and I have a feeling it’s not for me.

You’ve been with us for many years. What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? What I love about being apart of the Academy is the amazing people you meet. It is like a giant family here where I make amazing connections with my teachers and have a whole new set of friends. I also love all the opportunities they give me to perform at new places.

What kind of music do you like to listen to in your free time? I love listening to mostly pop music and some rap. Some of my favorite artists are Beyoncé, Nicki Manaj, Ariana Grande, Hoodie Allen, Drake, Megan Tranoir, and many many more.

What would you like to do after high school? Any plans to study music? I am not exactly sure what I want to study after high school but I know that I want music to still be a part of my life.

Other than music, what are your favorite activities? Other than music I love to hangout with friends and go to the mall and the beach. I love being with friends and they are a very important part of my life.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself? Some goals and dreams I have in my life are to just be going around the world performing and having the time of my life. I have no clue what I really want to do as a career but if I could be anything it would be rocking out in front of everyone in the world helping them to be happy and jam out with me.


Faculty of the Month: Jennifer Nejman, ActinGarten


This month we’re delighted to showcase one of our wonderful early childhood instructors--Jennifer Nejman--who has an enthusiastic following of children and families in our ActinGarten program. Please enjoy Ms. Jen’s answers to our interview questions below:

You have a strong acting background and you teach our innovative
ActinGarten Curriculum Curriculum for students younger than 6 years of age. When and how did you fall in love with music and acting? I fell in love with music and acting at a very young age.  I can remember singing every word to “Somewhere a Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz at four years old.  I remember being drawn to music and dramatic play in my Kindergarten classroom as I would frequently choose to play with puppets, musical instruments and pretend play activities.  There was very little in the way of formal classes for these interest areas for my age group at the time.  That is why I am especially pleased to offer children the opportunity to be a part of ActinGarten!

You have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and you work with children every day as a Acting_Classes_Flemington.jpegpreschool teacher. I’m sure many people wonder--how do you have enough energy to also teach fun classes at HAA?  Good question! I definitely TRY to get as much rest, exercise (& caffeine) as is necessary to keep up with my very energetic students.  Besides these strategies, I believe that their excitement guides me.  Simply seeing how thrilled they are to tell a new story each weekend at ActingGarten gets me out of bed on Saturday mornings. I feed off of their energy and excitement and we use all of those emotions to tell compelling, interesting stories together.

Tell us about your students. What do you enjoy most about working with such young students?  The joy of our classes includes quite a bit of student improvisation, and I certainly look forward to that each week!  I can teach two classes each weekend featuring the same fairy tale, fable or story, but no two classes are ever the same!  At this young age, imagination flows freely.  They do not consider anything to be impossible.  Their imaginations have not been restrained by the severe constructs of reality.  And watching their ideas unfold is true magic!

What is the funniest thing you’ve ever heard in class from one of your students?  That is a difficult topic to narrow down, as they always have me laughing!  However, if I had to choose one story it would be about a four year old boy who asked me to marry him!  He told me he’d always love me “forever and ever” even though I was “so, so, so, so, so OLD!”  It had everyone chuckling!  How’s that for an ego boost!

You are very passionate about HAA’s Multiple Intelligences approach to teaching and you use it in your classroom in many different ways. Is it easier or more difficult to teach this way, compared to a more traditional approach?  At first, it is difficult to implement the Multiple Intelligences approach because you must first assess each student’s needs, interests, strengths and weaknesses.  However, over time, it becomes easier as you can begin to lesson plan for each student based on these findings.  For instance, I try to tailor my “warm up” exercises to benefit my students who are kinesthetic learners.  While much of our class time involves discussing emotions, character building, plot and performance strategies in a developmentally appropriate way, kinesthetic learners will learn these topics better through movement, physicality or playing games which involve visible, tangible items that they can manipulate and play with.

In your opinion, why are acting classes important for the early childhood age group (ages 1-6)? While teaching my general education preschool classes, I always tell the parents that the most important part of their child’s education is NOT necessarily cognitive, (math or science skills) linguistic, (reading or speaking skills) or motor (Writing skills or physical ability).  Instead, I place the utmost importance on social/ emotional skills as I believe that all other skills will stem from and benefit from those foundations.  In the same way, I believe that acting classes use both familiar stories and new stories to teach children morality, empathy, communication, peer cooperation, social problem solving and emotional awareness and expression.  With these classes, we are building up children’s self confidence as well as their ability to understand the emotions of others around them.

Any tips for adults on how to be more relaxed when playing imaginative (acting) games with their children? Is there a “magic mantra” they could use to instantly be part of their child’s storytelling world?  While I encourage a great amount of creativity and improvisation, I understand that giving small children free reign on imaginative games can get messy and often frustrating!  In our class, we use hoops on the floor filled with several “open ended” items (items that can be used to represent many different props) for the children to use in their story telling.  We call them “prop circles.”  I would suggest using something like this at home, as it does not limit their creativity but perhaps limits the amount of mess.  Allow them to help you to collect props to tell a story beforehand.  Lastly, I don’t have one “magic mantra,” but I would simply encourage parents to ask lots of questions.  Listening to children’s reasoning for character choices and plots can truly open your eyes to their personal “storytelling world.”

What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? There is so much positivity and excitement from the students, families and colleagues that I’ve encountered.  Everyone is so knowledgeable about the classes they’re involved in and so genuinely  excited and welcoming when learning about new programs.  The excitement is quite contagious!

What are your other interests and hobbies? My other interests and hobbies include art, history, philosophy, writing, reading and travel.  I am an avid fan of all things Disney.  I enjoy writing and drawing, and I’d love to write children’s books someday.  Lastly, I am an animal lover! I spend much of my time caring for (and spoiling!) my dogs Ellie & Alice.

What is your favorite play or musical?  My favorite my musicals include “Into the Woods,” “Ragtime,” and “The Fantasticks.”
More on Ms Jen Here!


Student of the Month: Emily Gouse, ActinGarten and Piano Lessons


This month we’re excited to showcase Emily Gouse, who takes Piano Lessons and participates in HAA’s popular ActinGarten program. With just a bit of help from her Mom, Emily gave some wonderful answers to questions we asked her:

How old are you, and when did you first join Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? Emily Gouse is 6.  She started Musikgarten in Dec. 2011 when she was 19 months old.

Who are your HAA teachers? She had 5 wonderful years with Mrs. E as her teacher for Musikgarten.  For the past year, she has had the terrific Miss Jen for ActinGarten and will continue the program in the fall (and hopefully summer).  She just started Piano lessons with the talented Mr Joel and will also have him as a teacher for Show Kids Choir in the fall.

What did you like about your Musikgarten classes? I like when I am learning about the music notes. Mrs. EActinGarten Flemington_NJ was a fun teacher.  I also like to play instruments and perform in ensembles.  The Musikgarten CD was nice to listen to. This year we learned about music from different countries and Mrs. E sometimes made us food to go along with the countries- shortbread from the British Isles was the best. Sometimes the parents performed dances with us.  That was fun too.

What do you like about your ActinGarten class? I like when we act out stories.  My favorite was when we acted out Peter Pan. One week I got to play Wendy and the next week I got to play Peter Pan. It was fun getting to play different characters from the same story. I liked miss Jen because she made the class so much fun.  Another thing I enjoyed was learning how to bow and understanding the difference between upstage and downstage. Miss Jen gave us stamps at the end of class. I liked that part too.

Emily, you just started taking piano lessons, too. Why did you choose piano? What’s so special about it? :-) I chose piano because it sounded fun when Mrs. E told me about it. I also want to learn how to play the violin and guitar but I have to learn how to play the piano first.   One reason I wanted to play the piano is because I like the sound. So far, piano is a great instrument to learn.  Some of the things Mrs. E taught me in Musikgarten are the same like note heads and the way music looks on the page.  Mr. Joel makes learning really fun.  I have homework to practice so that I can get good at playing.

Question for Emily’s Mom, Jenny: your family seems to find performing arts education to be very important. In what way do you believe Emily has benefited from taking these classes?   In so many ways!  However, I especially see that her confidence to perform both in ensemble work and individually has really blossomed.  Her ability to really ‘hear’ has been nurtured.  It’s common for her to pause while playing outside to listen to birds and leaves rustling- quiet and subtle things that you have to pay attention to.  In addition, when listening to music she can identify when an instrument or vocalist is playing or singing louder or softer and she can match that with her voice.  Musikgarten has made her much more aware of the world around her.  Recently, Miss Jen told me that Emily immediately recognized the score to Pocahontas playing in the background during acting class- another example of having trained ears.  She has also learned the importance of each person’s part in group performance by performing ensemble pieces in Musikgarten and through group story-telling in ActinGarten.  I like that she is learning that each person contributes something of value to the whole.  It’s wonderful that Emily is exposed to a wide variety of musical styles, instruments and acting approaches.  This past weekend, we saw a live musical.  Before the performance, Emily looked into the orchestra pit and named each section and identified most of the instruments.  That would not have been possible without her musical training at HAA.

You’ve been with us for quite a few years. What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? I have found HAA to be extremely welcoming, supportive and inspiring.  It is a safe, non-competative and encouraging place for my child to grow musically and theatrically.  I also like the variety of programs offered and that each class is truly age-appropriate- we are especially happy for HAA’s addition of ActinGarten this past year.

What kind of music does Emily like to listen to in her free time? Emily loves musical soundtracks from Broadway shows like Peter Pan.  She also enjoys listening to last year’s Vacation Bible School cd, Sofia the First soundtrack, and the Musikgarten CD of the quarter.   She always sings along even if it is an instrumental.

Emily, what would you like to be when you grow up?  A vet, an actress and a singer.

Other than music and acting, what are your favorite activities?  Lyrical dance class, swimming class, running in the yard with my friends and school.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself? I like to write and illustrate books and act out my favorite movies like Peter Pan Live, Narnia, Cinderella and Tangled. I set up all of my character’s props before starting and then act out the stories.  And I like to act out my favorite books.  I also like to sing and make up my own songs.   I have a pet cat named Gus. He is an orange tabby and I have a hermit crab named Heart. She wears a purple shell with a Shamrock.  I enjoy reading books. My friends are very special to me and I enjoy doing fun things with them on the weekends like going to the zoo, farm and the beach. My dream is to have a pet horse and to be able to play the piano for it.

Faculty Showcase: Kristen Blossom, Acting


We are excited to showcase Actress Kristen Blossom as our Faculty of the Month of June. Though this is only her second year at HAA, Kristen’s acting classes have become an important part of our program. In below interview, she shares her insightful thoughts on acting and teaching:

You are a well-rounded artist of many skills and talents (singing, acting, painting, photography). Where dokristen.blossom you draw inspiration for all these activities? What “recharges” your artistic batteries? Thank you! I guess I extract inspiration from whatever I’m learning, feeling, and dealing with in the moment. What recharges my artistic batteries? Making an audience laugh.

You have a lot of professional training (Master’s Degree in acting), but you once said that the best actors don’t act, they are just being themselves. Can you tell us more about that? So, why did I need 7 years of acting training to learn how to not act? Haha. Ok, so, get ready for a novel: Technically, it is acting, but my instructor (Andrei Malaev-Babel) used to say to me, “it’s you and not you” at the same time. When we get up on stage, or at any point when we feel as though people are watching us, we change. We’re different when we’re by ourselves in our room, then from when we’re around others. So, for instance, just now, I’m sitting at my computer typing and as soon as my sister and her boyfriend walked in the room, I sat up straighter, felt a little flustered like I needed to say something, and for some reason I make my eyes bigger whenever people are around, maybe to compensate for being sad or tired. These things I did were very subtle and subconscious, but they were slight changes that brought me farther away from the truth of what I was feeling in that moment. Imagine this on an ever huger scale, when I need to get up on stage in front of 3,000 strangers. What happens to you personally when you need to address a large group? I can guess a couple of things: Tense shoulders, locked jaw, locked knees, rigid stance, inability to breathe deeply, inability to use your full vocal power. So, if my job as an actor is to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances” (Sanford Meisner), then I need to let all that tension go and experience something my instructor (Andrei Malaev-Babel) calls “public solitude,” which is when I am acting exactly as I would alone in my room, but in front of an audience. So, back to the whole not acting thing… If my character is angry, I’m not going to imitate anger, I’m not going to pretend to be angry, or fake anger, or make an angry face, or act like I’m angry… I’m going to be angry. I do this exercise with my older students: I say, “act like you’re cold” and then they shiver and rub their arms up and down with their hands and bounce around, and then I say, “ok, drop that, now just simply be cold.” And then suddenly there’s a temperature drop in the room, there’s a super subtle, truthful, honest look of cold I can see on their faces and any shiver that comes to them is real and natural. Does this make sense? I could go on for 56 more pages.

Tell us about your students. What do you enjoy most about working with young actors and singers? Working with kids is the best, because they haven’t yet started stifling their emotions, impulses and creative movement. They feel things sooo deeply and then they express those feelings by rolling around on the floor and doing crazy dances (which is truthful, honest behavior, exactly what an actor is called to do). Us adults, on the other hand, we censor ourselves, we say, “this feeling is inappropriate” then we swallow it, and it ends up manifesting in back pain (or neck, jaw, chest, throat, acid reflux, stomach knots etc..). The feeling doesn’t get released, it just reeks havoc on our physical body and we lose that impulsive freedom we once had to jump like a frog, yell full volume, do an evil laugh, make up a spontaneous song, make weird noises and randomly collapse onto the floor -- all the things kids do with absolute ease. Kids have not yet been domesticated; they’re not creatively-crippled by self-consciousness and fear. It takes years of training to bring adults back to that place of child-like wonder and instinct. As we get older, we hard core judge every teeny tiny move and sound we make. Children don’t have that inner bully, which says things like, “You look weird, don’t make that face. That sounded ugly. That was a stupid idea.” Unfortunately, this voice starts speaking up once my students hit Middle School and it’s my personal goal to SILENCE it.

What is your recipe for success as a teacher? Affirmation and asking questions that lead them to experience self-guided discoveries.

You are also a passionate and talented photographer and some of your work is displayed in our hallway. How do you get people to relax, smile and be themselves? What’s your secret? ;-) I try to gauge what might make that individual’s eyes light up. Kids loveee to talk about their pets, teenagers love to talk about their silly friends, adults love to talk about their grandchildren: Instant, genuine smiles and laughter.

Movies or Theatre? What’s closer to your heart and why? Theatre, because I like exchanging energy and communing with the audience.

What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? There are a lot of Harry Potter fans. Ha, but for real, the level of talent amongst the staff is extraordinary, but along with that, the way everyone is still very personable and silly, that’s why I like it here, because what’s the point of it all if you aren’t having fun?

What are your other interests and hobbies? Yoga and I don’t know what else, maybe I should get more hobbies.

If you could play a role in a famous movie, who would it be? Um.. Batman.

Click for More Info on Kristen Blossom!

Student of the Month: Matthew Woodward (Voice, Guitar, and Acting)


This month we’re congratulating Matthew Woodward on winning June’s Student of the Month Award. Matthew is a 12-year-old Music and Acting student who joined HAA in 2014. He's very involved with his HAA activities, honing his skills in several different areas. In between his lessons and classes, Matthew was able to squeeze in a brief interview with us :-)

Who are your HAA teachers? I’m currently studying Voice with Toni Dodich, Guitar with Brian Green, and ActingMatthew_Woodward
 with Kristen Blossom.

You are a talented young singer, actor and you now also take guitar lessons at HAA. How do you find time to work on all these different artistic skills? I use my weekends and Free time to Focus on my music.

You seem to enjoy being on stage. What is it about performing that you like the most? The feeling of energy and excitement.

You’ve been taking lessons with us for a couple of years. What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? I like the welcoming feeling and all of the opportunities for me to learn new things.

What kind of music do you like to listen to in your free time? I like Jazz, Pop, Broadway and Rock.

What would you like to do when you grow up? Any plans to study music? I would like to be a versatile singer and an actor on Broadway.

Other than playing music, what are your favorite activities? Being outside and being with my friends and family.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself? I have a pet dog that I love to play with and take care of. My dream is to act, sing, play music, dance and to be on Broadway.

Matt, if you keep going at this pace, we have no doubt that your dream will come true!!

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