ENCINITAS — Alyssa, who recently turned 9, is learning to play the harmonica; between chords she likes to throw in a bit of beatboxing. Ali, 10, wants to play the accordion; it’s her heritage, her grandfather plays. And 68-year-old Hugh is taking piano lessons because as he says, “I go to the gym to exercise my body, and I also want to exercise my mind.”
The three are among more than 450 students at Leading Note Studios in Encinitas, where children and adults learn to play virtually all instruments from piano to saxophone, take voice and songwriting lessons, attend summer music camps, participate in recitals and even record in the recording studio.
Opened 10 years ago by Berklee College of Music graduate Camille Hastings, Leading Note Studios provides a musical education experience that in-home lessons can’t. “There are no recitals when you’re taking lessons at home,” Hastings explained. “We also offer free Saturday workshops, and we’re constantly putting duets and trios together. A student may be playing the piano in one room and the teacher might hear someone playing drums in another room and will suggest that they get together to play. You seldom have to play by yourself here.”
Music camps are held every week in the summer except for the week of July 4. In most cases, camp attendees need no prior experience in playing an instrument. The camps feature instruction in pop, blues and jazz; audio engineering; introduction to music; movie music; voice camp; and even a summer musical performance where students learn how to produce and perform in a musical.
Lessons are semi-private or private. Private sessions are 30, 45 or 60 minutes long; the semi-private lessons, for three students, are one hour.
All 25 are highly qualified—they must either have a degree in music or have performed professionally. A few are still in college, and some are on their way there, like Olivia who’s played piano since sixth grade and performs in musicals. She heads to Columbia University in August, where she’ll major in political science and minor in jazz studies.
Hastings said that not every student ends up having a career in music. “The prime age to take classes is 5 to 13. Once kids get in high school, homework and sports take up much of their time.” But she pointed out that once a child has taken music lessons, he or she often will relieve stress or will take a break from studying, by playing an instrument. “Music stays with them for the rest of their lives.”
A strong advocate for learning music at any age, Hastings has a favorite saying: “Every retirement home has a piano, but not one has a soccer team.” She believes that music is an integral part of everyone’s life. From the toddler beating out a rhythm with a spoon on his highchair to the songs sung at memorials, music makes our world a better place.
Leading Note Studios celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 5. Join in the festivities from noon to 3 p.m. Students will perform all day and attendees can tour the studio.
For more information on Leading Note Studios, visit the website: www.LeadingNoteStudios.com