- Levels Taught:
- Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
The process of composition is a very individual and tailored path, and there isn't a set way of approaching composition. It is tailored to the student's strengths and weaknesses, musical interests, and the way a student approaches music (intuitive vs. analytical). But things I often cover are analysis of music the student enjoys, figuring out pieces by ear (having a strong ear is very important to the composition process), creating pieces based on moods or images, working on forming a piece and telling a story, and orchestration.
If composing is your interest I often have you keep a journal and ask you to listen to some music you like, and write down some things you like about what you hear, and then try to figure out what they're doing. These things help you discover what you love about music and ultimately get reinvented and channeled into your own music. As a composer myself, I'm very inspired by certain sounds, harmonies, textures, as well as extramusical things such as nature and art. So I believe that being aware of these things and keeping an open curiosity is a big part of becoming a composer with a strong personal voice.
If you are already experienced in composition and are looking for ways to get your work out there and performed, this is also something I cover. I co-lead our own modern jazz orchestra as my primary outlet for my creativity, and have also had my works performed by many other groups and instrumentations. We can talk about the trials and joys of getting your own group together, and the logistics that are needed to make your dreams come true.
I also often incorporate composition and improvisation into piano lessons so if you're also looking for piano lessons I can combine both elements into our sessions. I often am amazed how well the art of composing and piano feed into each other in novel ways that wouldn't be there if I only studied one or the other.
- Teaches students:
- Ages 5+
- Teaching since:
- April 2004
Hi! My name is Erica, and I am a private lesson teacher, composer, arranger, and pianist currently living, writing, performing, and teaching in North Jersey. I believe that by having such a versatile musical background, I will be able to understand different needs and interests you may have and help you begin or continue your musical journey and reach your goals.
I currently teach 30 private piano and composition students in North New Jersey, and I am consistently inspired by all the progress all my students have made! My students have played classical pieces in recitals, played in jazz combos with other student musicians, written music that was performed by professional ensembles, learned how to play ragtime, and more. No two students have gone down the same path, because the curriculum was developed around the individual.
As a composer, I've penned over 15 charts for Jazz Ensemble, in addition to several charts for Studio Orchestra, Jazz Combos, Chamber Groups, Vocal Groups, and Film, and I've won a few awards, including 1st Place in the International Zurich Jazz Orchestra Composition Competition, a 2011 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award, and a 2012 ASCAP Plus Award. I co-lead a jazz orchestra that has performed in several NYC clubs. My pieces have also been performed by her own chamber group "Community of the Spirit," Kurt Elling and the Metropole Orchestra the Zurich Jazz Orchestra, Todd Coolman's Quintet, the Eastman Jazz Ensemble and Studio Orchestra, Bernie Williams and the William Paterson Jazz Orchestra, Weapons of Jazz Destruction, and others.
I've also been inspired by many teachers along the way. I have a BM in Jazz Writing (Composition) with high distinction from the Eastman School of Music, and an MM in Jazz Arranging from William Paterson University. My composition and piano teachers have included Jim McNeely, Bill Dobbins, Rich DeRosa, Harold Danko, Raymond Torres-Santos, Tony Caramia, and Adrien Cohen, and I am a current member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in NYC.
I'm a very passionate teacher and I'm excited to begin your musical journey!
*** Lesson Details ***
In addition to a customized lesson plan (dependent on your goals, strengths, weaknesses, and interests) you get introduced to a wide variety of styles and concepts. Some of the things you will do in your musical adventure with me include:
1) Learn classical pieces ranging from short Bach Minuets if you're a beginner, to Chopin Nocturnes and Bach Preludes and Fugues if you're advanced.
2) Learn the "why" behind music... Why does this sound quirky? Where does the musical statement end? What harmony is the composer using?
3) Write your own music. We might take a new concept you learned, and you may compose a song based on it. Or you may have your own ideas, and I'll help you take them to the next level.
4) Learn to improvise and learn how to play some jazz. You will play over blues and learn jazz standards. You will also learn how to play by ear.
5) Learn basic conducting.
*** Studio Equipment ***
home: fully-weighted keyboard, seating for parents, music stands, sheet music, printer (for printing custom handouts), free wi-fi
music studio : fully-weighted keyboard, seating for parents, music stands, sheet music, printer (for printing custom handouts), free wi-fi
*** Specialties ***
I teach classical and jazz, and usually like to incorporate both into lessons at some point, even if the student may have a greater interest in one of these (so you don't have the classical pianist that has never played one note not written in the music or doesn't know how to spell a simple major triad, and you don't have a jazz pianist whose reading skills is not up to par, and has no regard for tone/touch). Typically students not only read classical repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, Kabelevsky, etc.) but also learn how to improvise over a blues, read a lead sheet, and figure music out by ear. I'm also comfortable with rock styles.
I also have a lot of experience accompanying (musical theatre, instrumental, vocal...) and I like teaching the student how to follow a soloist. I teach students how to read lead sheets so they can read whatever they may get from a vocalist, and I teach chord theory so that they can easier recognize patterns in music when playing with an instrumentalist or vocalist.
I incorporate composition and theory into lessons, usually in conjunction with whatever piece they are learning (explain what type of chords are in their piece, or explain how they move, or why something may sound discordant or may go somewhere expected, or I may teach them phrases in music just like sentences work in English.) I definitely, however, work with students who are more serious in composition as well and talk about how to develop their pieces, how to create ideas, how to get out of a "writers block," orchestration techniques, encourage them to expand their instrumentation, etc.
Formed in 2011, this 18 musician ensemble performs Shannon's and my original music in various clubs in the NYC area. This is inclusive of a monthly gig we had at InsaniTea in Montclair from Feb 2013-Feb 2014, as well as gigs at ShapeShifter Lab, Tea Lounge, Trumpets Jazz Club, and others, with a recording in its early planning stages.+ Read More
I accompany for this camp for 2-3 weeks every August since 2006.
Started with just a few students here or there in the early years, now a major part of my music career. Between my own private studio and other studios I currently teach about 35 students of all ages (as young as 4 but across the whole spectrum), levels, and focuses.+ Read More
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a membership association of more than 480,000 US composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers. The ASCAP is committed to nurturing music makers throughout their careers.
Erika is the best. She has great sense of music, she made you thinking more than just playing the music on piece of paper! I highly recommend her.
Erika is pretty nice and professional piano teacher. As a beginner, I have great confidence in growing my piano skill with her.
She is excelent.I enjoyed her classes
Erica is great at explaining and teaching my 5 year old daughter piano.
I am an adult student with some piano in high school who began lessons in January, 2015. Erica is a brilliant musician. She is always ready when I arrive, fully able to remember where we left off, and always making sure that I make progress. She is 100% professional. I have learned so much from her about music theory and composition -- it has been great.+ Read More
She gets it!
Quick background: I was classically trained for about 7 years in piano, starting when I was around 9. My teacher was great, and did an awesome job of driving the fundamentals.
Fast forward to more recently: Having not taken lessons for 15+ years (I had continued playing and learning...just without a teacher), I decided I wanted to pursue a bit more jazz and theory. I went back to my childhood teacher, who very honestly told me that jazz was not his forte. I took a few months of lessons with him, which helped to get me back into the swing of things, but I was really interested in jazz.
I found Erica on takelessons, and she was truly amazing! If you're looking for a teacher who is always "by the book", this isn't her. While I'm sure she can do that, she thrives in allowing you to be a musician. Her understanding of complex time signatures is great, and she really helps to chunk things up into manageable pieces.
Some of her greatest strengths, from the student's perspective, are her patience, friendly demeanor, STRONG understanding of music theory (she's a composer at heart, and I've no doubt that she's great at it), broad knowledge of music, from composers to artists, and her ability to help you learn to improvise. If I wanted to play different notes than what was on the page, within reason of course, that was ok. Having come from a classical background, that was quite refreshing.
I was always able to look forward to learning something new at my lessons; even her book recommendations have been excellent.
I'd say, because of her patience, she's a perfect teacher for adults and children alike. You really can't go wrong with Erica!