SH: Tell us about your studio.
My husband and I created the Veritas Music & Learning Center to include private music lessons as well as academic classes and tutoring. I also have an elementary education degree, so we have a blending of music as well as academics. We opened on May 1, 2010. Most of the classes we offer are a result of parent requests. We have teachers for:
Specialists in: Piano, Voice, Guitar (Bass, Acoustic, Electric), Cello, Violin, Viola, Trumpet, Oboe, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, French Horn, Drums & Percussion, mandolin, Ukulele, Banjo, and all beginning band/orchestra instruments.
Academic Subjects: Elementary, Jr. High, High School, through Adult tutoring with specialties in Math, Grammar, Creative Writing, Computers, Language Arts, Science, History, ACT PREP, and Sewing.
Language classes and tutoring: Spanish, Spanish ESL, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Hindi, Russian, Latin, Sign Language.
We now have 29 teachers on staff, and have outgrown our space again for the 3rd time. We are currently working on construction to divide our spaces into more rooms, or expand into the basement of the building we are currently renting.
SH: What is your experience, and the style you teach?
I’ve been teaching private piano lessons since the age of 16. I taught at the local studio, went to college and acquired my degree, then, after several years teaching elementary school in the Chicago Public Schools, resumed teaching out of my home. I taught at my home studio from 1990-2010. Many of my students from my home studio came with me to the new studio. In Jan of 2010, I had 80 students in addition to a waiting list. I was going to bring another teacher into my home, but felt it was taking over the house. So, we created the Veritas Center.
I teach a traditional, classical approach, where students learn to read music first. However, it is very important that the students play music that they enjoy so that it becomes more real to them. With that in mind, we strive to always have a “fun” song in addition to the pedagogical curriculum. This “fun” song can be anything the student wants to try! Theory is also very important at Veritas. We teach chord theory, and sight-reading.
Blues and Jazz are also taught within the theory structure. After the students master basic chord theory, improvisation is introduced. I have created many teacher resources that I make available to my teachers. I have also written a scale theory workbook that will be published next year. This teaches all scales, chords, and cadences from the very beginning through all majors, minors, jazz and blues. It’s formatted like a workbook, rather than just another resource of all that data. Students learn to actually create the scale fingerings, cadences and arpeggios.
That old proverb, “If you give a hungry person fish, you feed them for a day, but if you take them to the water and teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime” is the reasoning for my approach. I want to give my students the skills to figure out the scale and chord patterns, so that application is a natural outflow, rather than another assignment they have to complete.
SH: Tell us a little bit about your music studio.
As I mentioned earlier, we have 29 teachers offering classes in private music instruction, as well as group lessons and classes. We have large rooms with big windows, making a bright and friendly learning environment. We also have one large conference-size room where bigger ensembles and classes can meet.
We provide a full-service waiting area with toys, tables, free Wi-Fi and a bistro area with a microwave, small fridge, hot and cold drinks and snacks available for purchase.
We have two recitals each year; one in December and another in June. These recitals include all the different instruments that we offer here at Veritas. Students will see performances on piano, voice, cello, violin, guitar, drums, flute, clarinet, and other band instruments. Sometimes the language classes make presentations at the recitals too. It’s a fun day.
We also have a unique motivational system that Veritas provides free of charge to all of its teachers and students, where kids can earn fun stuff if they practice and do their homework.
Some of the fun activities that we do:
1. Art contest for the cover of the recital programs. All students who enter get points towards the purchase of prizes in our unique motivational system. Winners not only get to be the cover of the program, but they also receive additional points towards prizes. This is a great activity for the students, as well as a way for my programs to always be student-created.
2. Crazy 8 days. This is an annual event where we post one day of the week, and when they come in, if they practiced on that day they receive 8 practice stamps on their prize cards. There is also a “terrible two” day posted. If they didn’t practice on that day, they get two stamps erased from their cards. This encourages kids to want to practice every day! We usually do this in January, after the winter recital is over, and the lull of the boring winter months take its toll on practicing.
3. Practice Lottery. Every week when a student comes in, if they have practiced at least 5 days, they get to fill out a form for the weekly drawing for a prize. The prize may be a coupon for ice cream at the local parlor, or something from the prize cabinet. We do this in the fall, as most students are overwhelmed now by the start of fall sports and school activities. We want to establish good practicing habits now, rather than setting the precedent of letting the sports schedules always win the battle for their time.
4. 5th recital awards. At each recital, we hand out awards for each student who has participated in another 5 recitals. It’s a 1-inch pin that many wear on their clothing at recitals so that everyone can see how long they have committed to this. Some put it on their book bags and have that with them every time they come to the center.
SH: How do you manage your studio?
All of the teachers are independent contractors. We provide the scheduling and billing (through studio helper). The teachers receive more than half of all revenue. We try to find that difficult line of making our prices reasonable for the students, and honoring our teachers for their expertise. We are open to any classes the teachers want to offer. So, this gives the teachers the opportunity to be creative, and try things for which they would not normally have a venue. If they come up with a new class idea, we’ll advertise it, and if it fills up, we’ll run the class.
SH: What are your plans for the future?
We have already expanded our space twice, and are out of room again. We are currently borrowing a room in the basement, and are looking into either renting the entire basement space, or dividing the rooms up by building sound-proof booths and placing them in the existing space. We strive to make Veritas an inviting and fun place where people can learn. Learning is a life-long endeavor!