TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Joshua M.

Joshua MThis week’s Rock Star Teacher of the Week is the multi-talented Joshua M., who teaches several subjects including singing, acting and music performance in the Washington, DC area.  A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joshua has a strong background and interest in musical theater and also studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  In addition to his role as a TakeLessons certified instructor,  Joshua has worked as a Musical Director/Rehearsal Pianist for many shows within the NY/NJ/DC tri-state area and serves as the Co-Artistic Director of No Rules Theatre Company based out of Washington, DC and Winston-Salem, NC. He remains active in theater and has performed in, written and directed a number of  musicals; some of his notable performance credits include roles in Godspell, Othello, Show Boat, Sweeney Todd, and Les Miserables.

Joshua believes in creating a strong foundation for his students to learn, and focuses primarily on breath, placement and eliminating bad vocal habits early on so that students can grow and develop new skills.  His students describe him as “easy to work with” and “incredibly patient,” and praise his ability to help them understand the core principles and underlying concepts of singing and acting. Congratulations on a job well done, Joshua!

Introducing the TakeLessons Team: Meet Daniela

DanielaAs part of our support team here at TakeLessons, Daniela interacts with students and teachers on a daily basis and helps them with anything and everything from scheduling lessons to billing questions!

What do you like about working at TakeLessons?
The team and the everyday challenges. Each day is a new beginning for me and a new opportunity to improve and work hard on something. Here at TakeLessons, everyone seems to share the same ideology, which helps us all become better professionals. I love the challenges, the people who I get to share the challenges with, and the thrill of the challenge!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was little, I wanted to be Mrs. Indiana Jones! I have always been very fascinated by cultures and societies. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to run away from a giant rock, I did have the opportunity to take college courses and still like to read articles related to Anthropology or Sociology. Who knows, maybe I will be Mrs. Indiana Jones some day!

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am very proud of graduating Magna Cum Laude as I didn’t have a “traditional” college experience. I started off as a full time student at a community college in Chula Vista, CA while working part time to help pay my overall expenses. After two and a half years, I got my A.A. and transferred to a small liberal arts school in Boston where I took my upper division courses, worked and interned part time for a year and a half. So after all of this craziness, I am proud of my honors degree not for the prestige of the honor per se, but because it represents my drive and motivation during my college experience.

What is your favorite thing about living in San Diego?
The fact that I live 5 minutes away from the ocean/bay! Whether I go there to read, run, play the guitar or just tan, I find a lot of peacefulness in the ocean. Also, there are great food venues here.

What activities are you involved in outside the office?
I volunteer for Amigos de las Americas, a national non-profit organization, as the Marketing Coordinator for the San Diego Chapter. We train high school students to go work on projects for 6-8 weeks in Latin American countries during the summer.  Also, I love to cook and try out new recipes. I honestly have 15+ DVDs of the Food Network (yep, Rachael Ray included).

Do you have any musical experience or play any instruments?
My musical experience started off with a little Playskool piano my mom bought me when I was young. Then she added the little guitar, the maracas, the microphone, and soon enough I sort of new a little bit of everything! As I grew up, I decided to just focus on vocals and guitar. I have been part of multiple choirs, musical shows, and composed several songs.

What are one professional goal and one personal goal that you hope to achieve this year?
Professionally, I want to polish my business skills. I want to translate all of the theory I learned in college into practice. Personally, I want to record an album of my songs. I first need to collaborate with friends to arrange each of the songs, which is what I will be doing all summer long!

What are you most passionate about?
I am very passionate about giving back to society. Whether it is to serve food for the homeless on Thanksgiving, read for children at the public library, or paint over graffiti, I am all about volunteering and making a positive impact on people.

What is the best place you’ve traveled to (or the place you’d love to go to)?
I felt in love with Puebla, Mexico. Everything was so colorful, the people were super friendly, and the food was delicious!  In the future, I would love to go to Thailand. I like the thrill of not speaking the native language, not knowing the ingredients in the food, not having the basics, and just having a great adventure!

Check back every Friday for a new profile on one of our TakeLessons Team members!

TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Samantha D.

Samantha DOur latest Rock Star Teacher of the Week has been a musician since the age of three when she started taking piano lessons from her mother, and now plays nearly a dozen instruments ranging from the violin to the tuba!  Meet Samantha D. from Macungie, Pennsylvania, who has been an instructor with TakeLessons since April 2009 and has seven continuing students.  In addition to studying piano, Samantha learned to play clarinet, flute, trumpet and saxophone, often playing different instruments in her school’s band. She also learned the violin and cello, all before graduating high school; she now teaches in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area, and is even planning to hold several half-day music camps for her students this summer.  Her students absolutely love working with her, praising her creativity and patience and saying they would “recommend her in a heartbeat” to anyone looking to take music lessons!

Samantha believes in teaching the fundamentals of music first, which makes the following lessons easy and fun for her students. She sets short and long term goals with each of her students, and works toward helping them achieve these goals with every lesson.  When not teaching music, Samantha is also passionate about horses; she is a certified riding instructor, and trains and shows Hunter/Jumper horses.  Outstanding work, Samantha – we are so happy to count you as one of our many talented TakeLessons teachers!

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Introducing the TakeLessons Team: Meet Holly

holly_thomsonMeet Holly, one of our student counselors here at TakeLessons!  Originally from Ohio, Holly moved to San Diego last fall and joined the TakeLessons team in April 2010.  As a student counselor, she has the opportunity to interact with students and parents every day to help them schedule music lessons!

What do you like about working at TakeLessons?
I love the “family” feel we have here. It’s not just a job – it’s a career, a team and a family! I look forward to coming in every day and talking to my “family” and hearing about all the exciting things they have going on. Whether it be professionally or personally!

What is your favorite thing about your job as a student counselor?
I love working with my team each day. They are motivating, inspiring and such a great group of people to work with. We are all passionate about music in one way or another, so that makes for an incredible dynamic! I also really enjoy talking to our potential and current students as well. Since we are a nationwide company, it’s really fun to talk to people all over the country each day. I love hearing about things going on in each city.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I really wanted to be a nurse when I was really little. Then I “shadowed” a nurse in 7th grade for a school project and passed out cold on the ER floor! I was terrified of blood. Since that didn’t work out so well, I then wanted to be a professional cheerleader all throughout my middle school and high school years. I finally did accomplish that goal – I cheered for almost 10 years for the Arena Football League (AFL), National Football League (NFL) and also National Hockey League (NHL).

Where are you from originally, and what do you like about living in San Diego?
I am originally from Dublin, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus). I am an Ohio State Buckeye at heart! GO BUCKS! 🙂 I loved growing up in the Midwest, but I am really enjoying living in San Diego. Going from cornfields to the beach is a big change. San Diego is so beautiful and walking along the beach is one of my favorite things to do. I also love going to all the fun festivals around the city. This weekend I will be hitting up the “Oysterfest” and the fair that’s in town!

What activities are you passionate about outside of work?
I am extremely passionate about dance! I feel so happy when I am on the dance floor. My new venture is ballroom! I am signing up for classes right now and am pumped. I have cheered and danced my whole life, but never tried ballroom. I am also passionate about staying healthy. I love doing yoga and also going hiking!

Do you have any musical experience or play any instruments?
I just laughed about this last night with my mom. I posted something on my Facebook about taking Bass Guitar lessons with one of our instructors and she commented and said “I hope you have better luck than the oboe. And I am glad that your dad and I aren’t there to hear you practice!” I was required to play an instrument in 7th grade, so I picked the oboe. I am not sure why, I just thought it sounded fun! As you can probably tell from my mom’s comment, that didn’t work out so well. I am determined to rock out these Bass lessons though! Wish me luck!

What are one professional goal and one personal goal that you hope to achieve this year?
One professional goal I have for this year is raising my goal number/stats each and every week – CANI (Constant and Never-Ending Improvement)!  I also want to become a leader on my team and constantly be pushing them to be their very best! A personal goal I have is to volunteer on a regular basis. Social work was my major in college, so I am passionate about helping others in need. I want to be able to devote at least an hour or two each week to a specific cause!

What is the best place you’ve traveled to (or the place you’d love to go to)?
I absolutely loved Aruba! I traveled there with my family when I was in college. We took this “Banana Bus” tour and it was one of the most fun times I ever had! The entire 5 hour tour we were singing, shaking maracas and dancing in our seats! We also went snorkeling in the most clear blue water you have ever seen! If you ever get a chance to go to Aruba…take the Banana Bus tour! 🙂 One place I have always been dying to visit is Italy! The history, food, wine…you can’t go wrong!

Check back every Friday for a new profile on one of our TakeLessons Team members!

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TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Beverly M.

Beverly MMeet Beverly M. of El Reno, Oklahoma, who is this week’s Rock Star Teacher of the Week!  Although Beverly has only been a TakeLessons instructor since February, she has quickly become an active member of our teacher community and brings over 27 years of experience to her role as a piano and music theory teacher.  She has worked with students of all ages, and her teaching style covers a variety of musical genres – everything from classical and gospel to country and blues.  Having lived in South America as a child, Beverly is bilingual and teaches lessons in both English and Spanish.

In addition to being a classically-trained pianist, Beverly is also a talented songwriter, having composed more than 200 songs – many of which have been recorded by various artists or arranged for church choirs.  As an instructor, Beverly’s greatest desire is to instill her love for making music in each of her students.  She considers music to be the “language of the heart,” and enjoys sharing her musical knowledge and love for playing with anyone who is willing to learn.

Celebrate Your Dad or Grad with a TakeLessons Gift Certificate!

Dads and Grads

The month of June brings many reasons to celebrate, with graduation season in full swing and Father’s Day coming up in less than two weeks (June 20th is the big day). Still need a gift for the dad or grad in your life?  Give them a fun and unique gift that they’re sure to enjoy – the gift of music lessons with a TakeLessons Gift Certificate!

Our gift certificates were a hit this Mother’s Day, and now it’s Dad’s turn to enjoy the fun as well!  Whether he wants to rock out on the drums or jam on the saxophone, any dad will enjoy the experience of embracing his inner rock star and learning a new instrument.  And when it comes to celebrating grads, we’ve got you covered too. From guitar lessons to piano lessons, TakeLessons gift certificates are valid for any type of music lessons that we offer and never expire, so recipients can use them at their convenience.  Gift certificates can be used for lessons with any of our TakeLessons Certified™ Instructors located in over 2,800 cities across the country.

Gift certificates are available in amounts beginning at $50, which can be printed at home or sent to the recipient via email.  Simply call one of our student counselors at 877-231-8505 or visit our website to purchase your certificate today!

TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Katherine C.

Katherine CAn award-winning and highly sought after mezzo-soprano and recording artist, Katherine C. of Elmwood Park, IL is this week’s  Rock Star Teacher of the Week!  Katherine has been with TakeLessons since October 2009, and teaches singing and opera voice, music theory and music performance in the Chicago area.  Her students call her a “great teacher with lots of enthusiasm” and praise the attention to detail that she brings to each lesson.  Katherine has taught at both the high school and college level, and her lessons focus on helping her students learn proper singing techniques, including how to prepare the body for singing and correct breathing techniques.

Among the many achievements in her opera career, Katherine created the role of the Young Nun in the world premiere of Stephen Hartke’s The Greater Good during Glimmerglass Opera’s 2006 Festival Season, which was later recorded on the Naxos label, and recently returned to the company as Aglaonice in the critically acclaimed production of Philip Glass’s Orhpée. Next, she makes her role debut as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel at the Syracuse Opera, where she will be awarded the comprimari “Artist of the Year” in 2010. Other notable engagements include a role debut as Sesto in Giulio Cesare and Un Musico in Manon Lescaut at the Florida Grand Opera.  Congratulations on your accomplishments, Katherine!

Introducing the TakeLessons Team: Meet Denise

DeniseDenise has been part of the TakeLessons family for 2 years; she started here as a member of our sales team in June 2008, and now works as a Project Manager on some of our super cool business development projects.

Where are you from originally, and what do you like about living in San Diego?
I grew up in Flushing, Michigan, and moved out to San Diego 2 years ago. June 3 is my arrival anniversary – woohoo! So what do I like about living in San Diego? Well, what’s not to like? Beaches, palm trees, 70-75 degree weather and sincere, friendly, welcoming people…there’s always something to do, like a picnic in Balboa Park, a concert at the Cricket Amphitheatre, coffee at Starbucks, or just a bicycle tour around the city. I love living in San Diego!

What are your activities outside of work?
Outside of work, I’m an avid reader, and an absolute game lover. Yay for the Wii Fit, too!  I like to explore new places and try new things, as well as cook and bake.

Do you have any musical experience or play any instruments?
I took weekly piano lessons from 5 years old until I was about 16 or 17. In middle school and high school, I participated in choir, a cappella, and an after school all-girls vocal group, as well as one or two vocal competitions. I took guitar lessons for about a year (with our awesome guitar teacher Nick W. here in San Diego), just long enough to be able to sing and play Wonderwall at our Show What You Know Concert. But piano is truly my first love! I’m in the market for one as we speak….

What is your favorite thing about working at TakeLessons?
My all time favorite thing about working here is definitely our staff. We’re a crew of really smart, genuinely friendly people from different backgrounds with a passion for building and creating stuff we’re proud of. I couldn’t be more lucky than to call these folks my second family!

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
On a personal level, I’m proud of a great many things, but a huge accomplishment is just hopping in my car to head out to the west coast pretty much on a whim. It’s not just the risk that I’m proud of, it’s also that I’ve been able to make myself a home here.

What are one professional goal and one personal goal that you hope to achieve this year?
Professionally, I just want to have as big of an impact as possible!  How vague, I know, but I’m so passionate about what we do here that wherever I can help is where I want to be and what I want to do! Personally, I set two goals: to travel to a state I’ve never been to (hello, Louisiana or Montana), and to finally get up on a surf board after talking about it for the last 2 years.

What is the best place you’ve traveled to (or the place you’d love to go to)?
I’ve traveled all over the country, and a bit in Europe, and each place has something unique about it that makes it the best. So let’s see…the best shopping? New York City, hands down. The best pizza? Chicago! The best scenery? Wyoming or Maine – a tie. The best tourist traps? Orlando, FL – haha. The best version of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” on stage? Seattle. The best waffle-covered-in-chocolate? Belgium. The best cheese, wine, and pastries? France. The best sunsets? My home-sweet-home, Michigan. But the best of all? San Diego, of course!

Check back every Friday for a new profile on one of our TakeLessons Team members!

How to: Practice the Drums When Time is Limited

drumsEvery musician knows that practice is an essential part of learning and progressing as an artist, but busy schedules and other commitments often limit music students from practicing as much as they would like.  Our instructor Jason M., who teaches drums and percussion in St. Paul, Minnesota, submitted this blog post to share his tips for how to make the most of practice when time is limited.


What Should I Practice With Limited Time?

I am often asked this question by beginning and intermediate drum students. The following is a suggestion for a ‘down and dirty’ practice regimen for folks with little time to spend at the kit.

– Practice/prepare for your gig. You have to take care of business first, so if you have a bread and butter gig (or are looking for one), make sure you are prepared.

– We can all use a little work on rudiments; even Jim Chapin practiced rudiments until his last days. Try to get in a good 10 minutes a day and mix it up on a daily basis.

– Work out some drum kit coordination issues with some exercises that force you to get out of your comfort zone. Try doing some single paradiddles with your feet and play the same thing with your hands, only at half the speed. Try that for 10 minutes and move on to something else. After a week you will have spent 70 minutes on this grueling task, but you will probably have it down (or be close to it) by then.

– Lots of folks might need a break by this time (about a half hour into practice) so you might consider listening to a song you want to learn. Check out the drums, bass, full band – then try playing along. I use a PA to accomplish this, but others might consider headphones. Either way is good, but the speakers provide a more “live” feel.

– Jam out for a few minutes to end your session. We have to stay psyched; a good “chops” session usually works well for this.

So there you have it. This practice routine will probably take the average drummer 40 to 60 minutes to complete.  It is action packed and most drummers will get something out of it.

Until next time, keep groovin’.

Jason M.

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