/* Add the font family you wish to use. You may need to import it above. */
/* This affects only headers on the site. Add the font family you wish to use. You may need to import it above. */
/* This sets the universal color of dark text on the site */
/* This sets the width of the website */
/* To make this a fixed header, change the value to "fixed" - otherwise, set it to "static" */
/* This affects all grey background sections */
/* More than likely, you will use one of these values (higher = bolder): 300, 400, 700, 900 */
/* For Headers; More than likely, you will use one of these values (higher = bolder): 300, 400, 700, 900 */
/* "0" for square edges, "10px" for rounded edges, "40px" for pill shape; This will change all buttons */
My daughter Emily has been attending Hunterdon Academy of the Arts in Flemington since 2011. She started out in Musikgarten's toddler classes and after a while added Actingarten classes to her HAA activities. After aging out of both programs, Emily signed up for Piano Lessons, Showkids Choir, and Acting Classes. She just can't seem to get enough of HAA!
Over the past six years, I've been proudly watching Emily develop her music and acting skills and in the process becoming more confident at school and other activities. As Emily has achieved performance milestones at HAA, I have been sitting on the sidelines recalling activities I attempted and failed in childhood. One such activity was ballet which I took for 2 months at the age of seven before being permanently dismissed and told to ‘find another activity’ which I was capable of doing.
That rejection and failure never left me. Nearly two years ago, I heard about a local adult ballet class so I signed up, took a deep inner breath and gave dance a second chance. It was a life changing choice! The teacher, Nancy Dow, welcomed us regardless of our experience or abilities. Not only did I make it past two months, but I performed in a showcase, filmed and produced a 75 minute video documentary about the journey, and am currently embracing a new year of ballet knowing that I am capable of doing more than my teacher from childhood believed was possible.
When my birthday rolled around in August, I made a pledge to try something new or revisit something I previously failed at each year for the remainder of my life. I made this declaration on my social media accounts. Many friends told me they were inspired by my journey to revisit and conquer past failures. So many parents spend their days sitting in waiting rooms while their children live life and learn new things. I think it’s important for adults to step aside from this sedentary station and take a class or two themselves.
For many years, I have wanted to learn to play the piano. One day while my daughter was in Show Kids Choir, I approached Ruthie and asked if adults take music lessons at HAA. She assured me they do and immediately encouraged me to take a trial class to see if I liked it- you won’t know unless you try. I inquired about lesson and teacher availability during the days and times my daughter is at HAA. While I was initially hoping to sign up for piano, Ruthie mentioned that Darryl, the new violin teacher had availability that would work for me. Violin… the instrument I have always loved and revered, but played rather unsuccessfully as a child. Throughout five years of lessons, I was always relegated to second violin, seated so far in the rear of the orchestra that I saw more of the backside of the stage curtain than the audience during school performances. However, the idea of working Darryl was very appealing given the numerous times I heard his violin and viola playing wafting into the waiting room. I was so impressed by his skill as a musician and his calm, friendly personality that I decided to give violin a second chance, much in the same way I had given ballet a second chance. Ruthie, being the sensitive and encouraging person she is, completely reassured and encouraged me to do a trial class the following week.
I would love to say that I was nothing but excited and confident in the week leading up to my trial, but I was beset with nerves. All I could think about was how poorly I played the violin as a child. I even had a conversation with a close friend, James Goodwin, who happens to be a strings teacher and a professional bassist. I was hoping he would talk me out of taking the trial by telling me it was silly for an adult to take lessons after so many years. Instead, he not only told me how good it would be for me to pick up the violin again but he promised to help me get my long dormant violin lesson-ready. So, it seemed that violin lessons were meant to be.
The day of my trial arrived. As soon as I walked into the classroom I explained my apprehension to Darryl. He completely put me at ease with his reassurance and gently approach to the lesson. He is so patient and encouraging. Darryl’s responsiveness to my musical interests led him to recommend that I listen to a recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for homework. Having a teacher introduces me to music and techniques I could not discover on my own. I am so thankful that Darryl was free to take me on as a student at a time that works for me while my daughter is in choir. I am continually blown away by the quality and skill of the instructors at HAA.
After my trial class, I stopped by the office and signed up for weekly lessons. It’s going to be an investment of time and money, but I know it will be worth it on many levels. I am very excited to have violin back in my life and can't wait to learn and improve. I have already started a daily practice regimen and find playing the violin to be stimulating physically, intellectually and artistically. Taking lessons is also enhancing my daughter’s musical experience. Seeing me practice encourages her to practice. She was so excited the first time she heard me practicing scales that she applauded heartily. What encouragement! I think she has learned some of that from her time at HAA.
I believe it’s important to embrace our interests and dreams in spite of past failures or discouraging statements by others. Along the way, we will inspire others by sharing the various contours of our journey with them. While the ballet school of my childhood saw me as a cog in their elite machine, schools like HAA seek to unlock the beauty and potential of each student in a non-competitive, ever encouraging atmosphere. They do this by consistently hiring kind, patient, and skilled teachers. One thing I have always felt at HAA is acceptance. It’s a place for creative people to be themselves while growing and developing as actors and musicians. This is so important in a society that is rapidly devaluing the arts. As the bearer of a BFA in Visual Art, I cannot imagine a landscape without artists, musicians, actors, dancers, poets… creative people who add limitless layers of beauty through their interpretation and expressions of life. And in order to keep this happening, we must make face our fears and past failures, pick up something new (or old) and believe that learning is a lifelong journey.
Looking for Professional Piano Lessons in Flemington? Study with Dr. Lynda Saponara, the latest addition to our piano program! Dr. Saponara, who received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Rutgers University, joins eight other piano instructors to meet the rising demands for piano and keyboard instruction at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts. Having previously held several university appointments, including at Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, New Jersey City University, and Wagner College, Dr. Saponara brings considerable knowledge and professional expertise to this community.
Why should you take piano lessons? The National Piano Foundation cites several university studies documenting the benefits of piano studies. Research conducted at McGill University in Montreal shows that "children who took piano lessons for three years scored higher than their peers on tests of general and spatial cognitive development - the very faculties needed for performance in math and engineering and other pursuits." Similarly, according to the University of California at Irvine, "students who took piano lessons along with computer puzzle-solving did better in math." For older students, too, piano studies can be very beneficial since they may reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. (For more information, visit The National Piano Foundation.)
Over the past two years, we have been listening carefully to our students and prospective students. Their input has been invaluable in our efforts to optimize the way Hunterdon Academy of the Arts operates. Many of our improvements in the area of music lessons have focused on making it easier for students to enter the program, and stay in it. We thought it may be helpful to provide a brief summary of our responses to the most commonly voiced concerns about signing up for music lessons:
1. What if I find out only after signing up that I don't enjoy music lessons? As of February 2010, we have introduced a new lesson registration that is based on short-term commitment. You initially commit to a minimum of 5 weeks, after which you may either drop out or re-register automatically for the next month. But a word of caution: if you aren't a virtuoso after 5 weeks of lessons, do not automatically assume that lessons aren't for you. It takes time to become a master performer! You wouldn't expect to be a professional football, tennis, or baseball player after a month of training either, or would you?
2. What if my teacher and I don't "click"? Very occasionally, that happens, but it is no problem from our point of view. We try to get it right from the start by offering you a free trial lesson with the teacher we believe to be the best match for you. If things don't quite work out as anticipated, we will be happy to transfer you to another teacher as long as we have spots available; we have a large faculty with multiple instructors in almost every field.
3. What if the time I signed up for isn't going to work with my schedule long-term? As long as we have other slots available, we'll be happy to provide you with more a convenient lesson time.
4. Do I have to buy an instrument if I sign up for lessons? No. But in order to make progress between lessons, you need to have access to an instrument for practice purposes. For your convenience, we provide many instruments for rent, or you can purchase instruments at low cost from our local retail partner, CrossBorder Music. Our teachers will be happy to advise you on your best options.
5. As an adult, is it not too late for me to start lessons? No, it is never too late to start an instrument. We learn as long as we live, and that includes playing an instrument! Actually, adults are sometimes at an advantage in that they can be more focused, organized, and determined than some younger students!
By Michele Collins
A growing number of adults have been contacting us about music lessons--not for
their kids but for themselves. Some barely seem to have enough courage to inquire, cautioning that "it's been so many years since I took lessons." Others tell us the story of their hectic professional lives, and that they are longing for a "peaceful island" away from it all, a place where they can relax and be creative. Others still are beginners, wondering if they'd be able to learn an instrument later in life. The answer is an emphatic YES, YOU CAN! We learn, mature, and improve as long as we live, in all areas of life.
To be sure, if your goal is to become a classical music virtuoso performing in major concert halls around the world, your musical journey invariably would need to begin in childhood; it does take a long time for such a career path to develop, and even those starting early have no guarantees that their talents will ever be recognized by a national or international audience.
But this is hardly the point. Music is enjoyable, exciting, and deeply meaningful, even more so when we turn from passive listeners into active music-makers. Try adult music lessons for yourself, and find out how your new, or newly rediscovered, passion can enrich your life!