Dustin Callahan

Dustin C.

Fallbrook, CA
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio
Profile-location-home Student's Home
Teaching Locations:
Profile-location-online Online
Profile-location-studio Teacher's Studio
Profile-location-home Student's Home
Levels taught:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

About Dustin C.

I love being a teacher, but even more than just that, I thoroughly enjoy assisting others on their journey to learning and making music a personal experience for themselves.

Having said that, here is my teaching philosophy, including what you can expect from me as a teacher and as an individual:


Each student who comes to me is an individual. I customize each lesson, keeping in mind the student’s level of interest, goals, and intent. I put great care into judging when to push, when to pull back, and when to stop altogether and regroup.

Sometimes there is frustration and as a teacher it is very important to take that experience and turn it into a positive learning situation. During the course of a lesson, we’ll take a "breather" and simply talk about the day, or work on material that is enjoyable and instills a sense of self-confidence —anything to release the tension of acquiring a new language-the musical language. Within moments, we are ready to begin again, refreshed and renewed.

I believe it's important to maintain a relaxed environment that encourages self-confidence, self-motivation, musical growth and excellence. To push students too much, being insensitive to their needs and limits, is to fail them. Sometimes this may cause students to dislike not only piano, but music itself. That may translate into personal regret years later. As their teacher, I do anything and everything to avoid that occurrence, making adjustments to their course of study.

Children and adults choose to end pursuing lessons at times, but only on an up-beat note, with suggestions of other paths to explore, other ways to grow and evolve. Closure is consciously done in a respectable and healthy manner, and students are never purposely abandoned. Having musical experience, for whatever length of time, can have lasting positive, even trans-formative effects on a student-child or adult.

As a teacher, I never give up on a pupil and attempt to instill that same dedication in each student. The piano is an instrument that requires passion, discipline, and strength. Moreover, it requires humility in recognizing personal and professional limitations with understanding and peace. We are not all capable of being world-class pianists; however, we can all foster within us their qualities of the love, joy, and awe that music brings to both the listener and performer.

In short: I offer myself as your personal musical guide to assist you in honing the skills needed to become the best musician your mind's eye can imagine. Learning music truly is an adventure that is meant to be fun and rewarding. Our time spent together will uphold that ideal.


Fifteen years of private Classical Piano study under Martha Ashleigh, Hans Boepple, Santa Clara University, California. Seven years of private Classical Viola study under Christine Becktrom, Modesto, California.

Six years of private composition, music theory and counterpoint study under Martha Ashleigh, Dr. Pamela Quist at Santa Clara University and Dr. Michael Fiday at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.


In addition to studying piano and composition extensively for many years I've been fortunate to have many other valuable experiences both as a teacher and musician, including but not limited to the following:

As a teacher, I've been teaching for over 5 years, having worked with young children to college age and beyond in a private lesson setting. During my undergraduate years I substituted for my professor at a local community college teaching the keyboard lab class for two semesters in a group piano setting. I have taught not only music but, composition and music theory as well.

As a church musician, I've assisted the Music Director at a northern CA catholic church as organist and pianist. I also accompanied the church choir during holidays and feast days.

As a soloist, I've performed extensively throughout California as a solo artist presenting standard literature and original works, as an accompanist for vocalists, and in chamber ensembles.

As an orchestral musician, I've toured throughout Japan presenting standard literature in Kurume, Fukuoka and Tokyo.


Inducted into the Music Teachers' Association of California Young Composers Guild (2000)
Inducted into the Music Teachers' Association of California Young Artist Guild (2001)

National Finalist, Music Teachers' National Association Young Artist Composition Competition (2002,
2003, 2004)

Commissioned by Denexxel Domingo to write solo clarinet piece, Paranoïaque (premiere 11/19/04)
Commissioned by the William Kapell Piano Foundation for Contemporary Music and Musicians to write
Enigma Rhapsody and Dance Illusions, two solo piano works (premiere 11/2/03)

Arrigo and Caterina Descalzi Prize for the senior music student who best demonstrates technical and
artistic growth and dedication to the art of music (2005)

*** Lesson Details ***
A typical lesson will vary depending on age and skill level when starting lessons. The first lesson will at minimum assess where your natural musical sensibilities are through a few interactive musicianship activities (rhythm etc.). Depending on the student and lesson time-frame we may also cover one or more of the following: basic hand position, keyboard geography, proper way to sit at piano (posture) and introduce some simple technique building exercises for building finger strength. From there the lesson content will be adapted to the individual's musical needs and goals. In future lessons music theory and musicianship skills will receive emphasis as well.

To what extent deeper aspects of music theory and musicianship are explored and taught will again depend on the student's musical goals keeping the following question in mind: Is music a hobby pursued only for enjoyment or is it being pursued as a serious course of study?

Neither path is better than the other, it is merely a matter of what degree of musical proficiency and understanding you want to walk away with during your time spent learning music.

As a beginner (in the 5-12 years old range), we will typically spend a lot of time discovering music through creative "musical games," flash cards and keeping the teaching atmosphere fun and inspiring. There will also be some technical exercises to build finger strength and dexterity early on which we will continue moving forward.

For younger children (ages 5-8), I prefer for the parents to be present and engaged throughout the learning process and to assist the teacher in supporting the child's musical development. A supportive home environment is important for not only personal, but musical growth.

While I will hold a student to his or her personal musical goals, I will not be overly strict especially with young musicians who are discovering and being introduced to music for the first time. During the early formative years a nurturing environment that instills creativity, self-confidence and self-motivation is the most important. The priority is to engage a young students interest and instill the belief that "playing the piano time" is not a chore, but something exciting and beneficial. Therefore, a mixture of effective musical activities and technique building exercises are implemented throughout the course of study.

Adult beginners will also be introduced to technique building exercises, music fundamentals and learning new repertoire in an age-appropriate context. As your teacher I will keep you accountable to your musical goals and monitor progress accordingly.

All students will be asked to purchase lesson materials that can be received either through the teacher, directly from the publisher online or local music store. Generally, these will include a piano method book, technique, repertoire and theory book. Supplemental materials such as flash cards may need to be purchased as well (often times students make their own flash cards though!)

*** Studio Equipment ***
Korg SV-1 88-key digital keyboard with weighted RH3 hammer action. 300-watt Behringer keyboard amp.

*** Travel Equipment ***
Korg SV-1 88-key digital keyboard with weighted RH3 hammer action. 300-watt Behringer keyboard amp.

*** Specialties ***
Primarily classical along with some popular music. I also teach composition, church music and contemporary concert/modern music.


Write a Review
2 Reviews


Things are going great with our piano lessons. The lessons material Dustin selected is excellent. We had hoped for an easy and slow start and that is what we are getting.

Posted Apr 22, 2012

When I started taking lessons with Dustin, my goals were to improve my ability to play the piano, strengthen my ear, and to have a deeper understanding of music theory. Starting from our first lesson Dustin had a lesson plan already mapped out that would help me accomplish my goals. Now when I play piano, I have the ability to play and write songs with much less effort. The ear training Dustin provided has brought me to the point that I can identify chords and intervals in music clearly. With a good foundation of theory established, being assigned harmonic analysis of a musical piece is not a daunting task. Overall, I have been very happy with Dustin's style of teaching and plan to continue taking lessons with him.

Posted Jan 23, 2012

Photos & Videos

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Applied Piano Instructor
Aug 2010 - Present

Marymount California University

Teach weekly private lessons to university students for credit. Students come into the university with a wide range of musicianship skills and experience.


MM in Music Composition
Sep 2005 - Jun 2007

College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinatti

BA in Music
Sep 2001 - Jun 2005

Santa Clara University


Music Teachers' Association of California
Jun 2013
MTAC aspires to be the recognized leader in (1) Student Programs, which make a positive impact in the quality of music education and in the lives of music students; (2) Member Programs, which inspire quality teaching, the pursuit of ongoing teacher education and member involvement with community outreach; (3) a thriving Foundation, which funds Student Programs and member needs through its investments, donations, and grants.

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