Passion Pulse Vol 1 Issue 4

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Have you ever been to Hollywood Cemetery here in Richmond? If not then fall is a great time to go visit. Leaves are falling from the trees, covering the ground and the grave sites. And off in the distance there is a huge tree whose leaves are currently half brown, orange and red and half green. It sits in the middle of a field surrounded by tombstones, and when you look at it, you can’t help but think what about what a metaphor it is for the life cycle, for life and death and the space in between. Think about the season we’re about to enter into. One holiday memorializes death, the next one celebrates gratitude for life and the next one, for many people celebrates the gift of the life that led to death and resurrection. So, as we move into fall, as we begin the crazy, beautiful, nostalgic, busy, hopeful, and even sometimes painful holiday season, we just want to say thank you for spending part of your life cycle at Passion Academy. We love to tell people how we are about more than just quality education in the Arts. We are about bringing life and joy and the gift of music and dance to all of our students. We love that you are a part of the vision and a part of our community.

And now, without further adieu here are all the exciting things going on in our world!

Passion Dance FREE Trial Week is going on right now so don’t miss out! It’s our Passion Dance program’s free trial week, where we’re inviting ALL of our students AND GUESTS to try out any dance class they’re interested in for free! The only condition is that you have to register ahead of time. Help spread the word that we have dance classes for both kids AND adults. We offer Tap, Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Musical Theater, Jazz, as well as a Dance Discovery class for children ages 3-5 and a Creative Movement class for children ages 2-3. If you happened to miss out on the class you wanted to try this week, you’re welcome to register and attend next week!


Halloween is coming, which means another Spooktacular Halloween Party at Passion Academy! This year’s shindig will be on Saturday night, October 28th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at the West End location. As many of you know, we have just completed a beautiful remodeling of our home base. Come check out how spooktacularly decorated our new digs will be. The festivities will include something for everyone…games, food, candy and of course some spooktacularly scary music for the occasion. This is a family affair too, so bring the family, the neighbor’s family, the neighbor’s cousin’s family…bring the family you like and even the ones you don’t, this is an event for anyone and everyone and a great opportunity to introduce someone to our West End campus. Costumes are encouraged but, as this is a family event, please keep them relatively related to this life and not the next.


On the 17th of December from 4:00pm to 6:00pm we are inviting all of you to join us for a very special, one-of-a-kind Winter Showcase. This will be our highlight event of the year. And in lieu of our regularly scheduled programming, we are going to be bringing you a poignant, moving and powerful production, an eye-opening story told through music and dance called “Invincible”. Invincible is the story of a young girl whose strength is put to the test when she is forced to move with her mother away from everything familiar to her. A new school brings pressure to fit in with her peer group, and before long she becomes the victim of bullying. The question is, will she have what it takes to be invincible?

It’s a story about a girl who overcomes her challenges by realizing that she is a beautiful, independent person in her own right. Along the way, she realizes that she doesn’t have to fit the mold of certain groupings, that she can make friends, just by being herself. Her ultimate discovery is that she has a bigger place in the world, and that she can help others who might be having similar struggles. It is a touching story reflecting on the joys of life, overcoming struggles, and inspiring hope.

We want you to come to this event. We want you to tell your friends and family about it, especially people who you know are having a hard time, people who are losing hope. But we also want you to come because, by doing so you will be supporting others who are struggling, through the Passion Arts Foundation. All proceeds from Invincible ticket sales will go towards providing resources for the foundation, so we in turn can offer educational and mentoring opportunities to those who need it most.  Our hope is that this event will move people to action, increasing opportunities for others who are struggling and who need a creative outlet.



The holidays are here, and, as much as we’d like to think that music lessons and dance classes are the only thing going on in your world, realistically we can see your calendar from here, the one that says, “Thanksgiving at cousin Fred’s in Charlotte, office Christmas party, school Christmas program, church Christmas cantata (accompanied by 5 extra rehearsals), and of course that little trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.” So, in light of the facts, we’re asking that, when you sit down to map out the quickest route from here to Dayton, Ohio, you would just hop on the computer and shoot us an email to to let us know when you’ll be absent during dates when you have regularly scheduled lessons or classes. It really helps us for our planning. But also remember that when we don’t use something we tend to lose it. So shoot for consistency, and if you fall and land at grandma’s house we’ll be there to pick you up in January.

Right now, if you were to sit down and write it out, how busy would you say that you and/or your children are? This is one of the hardest questions to ask ourselves. Why? Because it’s hard to determine how to master the art and at the same time avoid the curse of busyness.

It’s a huge blessing to able to be busy, it means we have life, health, opportunities, dreams, passions and talents, it’s a gift really. It’s also an art form worth learning how to manage. But sometimes, if we’re really being honest, it can become a curse. So, how do I know that the quality of my “yes” is being well-defined by the quantity of my “no”? And, more importantly, how do I help my child make sense of all of the things they could be doing, while making sure they aren’t indeed becoming a jack of all but master of none?

Here are a few easy questions you can ask yourself as a parent or as a student to determine whether you or your child is just too busy?

  • How much are you sleeping? All successful, healthy business people, entrepreneurs, people of influence, etc. will tell you that they work hard and wake up early. But they’ll also tell you that they get a full-night’s sleep every night. And all the major studies will tell you that those extra hours your teen is hibernating are actually critical for their continued emotional, physical and physiological development. Just because they want to act like adults doesn’t mean they’re not still kids.
  • How stressed are you, your kids, or your family? Again, studies show that an enormous amount of the problems we suffer from both physically and mentally, come from stress. We weren’t designed to operate under duress all the time. But so often we do, and most of the time we don’t even realize it because it has become so “normal”. So, be willing to take an honest look at what you or your student is stressed about and why. Simplifying the schedule may be an easy fix.
  • How effective am I being at whatever it is I’m undertaking? Jack of all trades, master of none is certainly a truism worth considering. But let’s take it a step further and suggest that “master of no trades equals the inability to be jack of any”. There is a feeling of satisfaction and healthy pride that comes from knowing and feeling like we accomplished something, like we moved forward, progressed, overcame and achieved. This is extremely hard to do when there are too many things on our plate. Remember, just because something is a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

How am I or my child doing as a person?  Is your student becoming the fullest, best version of themselves, or a pieced together version of who others would like for them to be? Are YOU becoming the fullest, best version of yourself, or a pieced together version of who others would like for you to be? This can be a hard question to ask now, but it can be even harder to change who we are later.

Our goal is to discover the intersection of our greatest passions and our greatest gifts, not how many things we can accomplish in one lifetime.

6 Reasons Dance Training Makes Us Better Human Beings

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6 Reasons Dance Training Makes Us Better Human Beings
by Steve Zee

Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:

Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time

In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can’t learn something quickly. In today’s world, we’re used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.

But dancers know that even when you have aptitude, there’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance. Acquiring any skill of value takes time. It’s the way we learn to dance, to play music, to speak a foreign language, to succeed academically, to change social norms and to break down barriers. We lace up our shoes day after day, week after week, year after year and learn how to dance. Commitment over time is the very antithesis of modern living and is at the core of dance training.

“Failures” Are Opportunities

At the foundation where I work that gives low-cost dance lessons to underserved kids, we do assessments to place students in the appropriate level. Every year we remind the kids that in academic schooling not moving up to the next grade every year is seen as a failure but in the arts, it is normal to stay in a level for multiple years as you perfect your skills. Every year there are kids who don’t move up and are upset. But they soon realize that moving to the next level comes with mastery of a certain set of techniques and mastering those techniques takes hard work.

You Don’t Get Something For Nothing

In dance class you are only entitled to what you earn. And what you earn doesn’t even necessarily have to be perfect dance technique. Some of my favorite students over the years have not been the best tap dancers but they’ve been magnificent students. They show up on time and are prepared, they work hard, they sweat and they persevere. Maybe they don’t become the most skilled dancer in the room, but they often reap the most benefits. And here is the beautiful part: those kids have worked hard exactly because they don’t have a feeling of entitlement.

We Are Accountable to Ourselves and Each Other

At the foundation where I teach we have a very strict wardrobe policy. Any student not properly dressed sits and observes class that day. It may seem overly harsh, but there’s wisdom behind it. There might be a time that a dancer or their family forgets the uniform, but it doesn’t happen again. Over time, as the dancer matures, they learn to be responsible without the parents being involved, and you no longer hear “My mom forgot my shoes.”

Dancers also become responsible for learning the material. They learn that the teacher is not a puppet master who can make a body do the correct thing; it is up to the student to learn the material. They learn that they are responsible to the rest of the class, and that being absent lets down their classmates because other dancers can’t get in a good practice without everyone in the room. Missing class, coming to class unprepared or not focusing on executing the steps properly, they learn, affects everyone else.

Cutting Corners Isn’t An Option

My younger students will invariably ask me when they can move to the next level and my answer is very frustrating to them, I’m sure. I say that there is really only one level: beginning. If everything goes well in the beginning, improvement will flow. If any corners are cut, it will be hard to become advanced. I distill advanced steps down to the same words I use for a person’s first tap lesson. Anyone with an aptitude for dance who excelled a little too quickly will tell you that they eventually go back to fill in the gaps.

What Other People Think Doesn’t Matter

In a world that is so concerned about appearances, dance teaches you that what others think is not the most important thing. I try to explain to my young students that they can’t let their experiences get derailed by what they think someone else may be thinking. If they stand front and center in class and make a mistake, what does it matter what another student thinks? Stand in front, get that correction, improve because you want to and let someone else’s view be damned. Let those too lethargic to meet their potential stand in the back and watch you strive to be better. If you can’t do it today, there is always next class and you are already on the way because you have begun.

Originally posted on

Passion Pulse Vol 1 Issue 3

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Hey Passion Family! Well, the rumors are true…summer is officially over! How do we know? Because Labor Day has come and gone, students are returning from Grandma’s house, and the back-to-school shelves are looking quite bare. But mostly we know because the stores are not so subtly serving up pumpkin egg nog! If the egg nog is out, then summer must definitely be over! So, time to gear up and get ready to “fall” in love with everything going on in September at Passion Academy.

West End Construction Complete

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day…but that was Rome. And, while our West End Remodeling Project wasn’t completed in a day, a LOT was accomplished in a very short amount of time. And now, just in time to enter the fall season, and right on schedule, we are happy to announce that Phase 3, the construction of our new dance studio in the former Band Development studio is complete! A big thank you to Daniel and Derek for all of your hard work, and a big thank you to all of you for your patience during the transition. Passion Academy has been through quite an impressive transformation.

Passion Arts Foundation Annual Benefit Concert a Huge Success

A huge thank you to all who participated in our first annual Passion Arts Foundation Benefit Concert! The event was a great success in so many ways. Our partnership with Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches was a hit, selling out all the goods, there was a tremendous turnout estimated around 100 people, and in true Passion Academy form the performances were top notch. There is even word on the street that a new hit group called “Daniel and Son” performed. But the best part about the event was being able to raise money for what is probably the most meaningful part of Passion Academy, our Passion Arts Foundation.

We are happy to report that Virginia Ventura, a very deserving student who we highlighted in last month’s Pulse, was able to benefit directly from the Foundation, and from the concert. Virginia received a fully refurbished violin and began violin lesson two weeks ago! What an opportunity for her and for us. Once again, a big thank you to all of you who came out to make this possible. Please continue to support and champion our Passion Arts Foundation. We truly believe that the work we are trying to do through it speaks volumes about who we are at Passion and who we want to be.

The Art of Worship

Did you know that Passion Academy has a Worship Leader Development program? It’s called The Art of Worship and we hope you’ll take a minute to check it out.

The program was developed by our worship leader mentor Randall Goulard out of something that has been a huge part of the core vision of Passion Academy since the beginning: a desire to serve churches by helping them grow and thrive in the areas of worship and the creative arts. The Art of Worship includes not only individual one-on-one worship leader mentoring, but also sound engineering consultation for churches and overall worship program consultation. The sky really is the limit in terms of how we want to help churches and their worship programs be everything God intends for them to me. So if you know of churches, worship leaders, pastors, or if you are connected to anyone that might be interested in letting us help them, please let us know or direct them to our website. Help us get the word out!

The Music Parents’ Guide by Anthony Mazzochi

Did you know that students who take a break from playing and practicing over the summer is a major reason why they don’t continue with their instruments? You didn’t? Well, now that we have half of you feeling guilty, let us reassure you that’s not the only reason students stop playing or get discouraged. Anthony Mazzochi lays out a number of reasons why it can be difficult for you or your student to stick with an instrument long enough to see real results. Here are some other common factors:

  • Parents don’t see music as a core subject. Music has to be made a priority in order to see success. We don’t usually think about quitting English or Math, because it’s seen as too important. Parents who see music the same way, as a core subject will see their students quit less often.
  • Students don’t know how to get better. Without the proper tools and practice habits to get better at anything, students will become frustrated and want to quit. When parents are invested in learning enough about music to help their child succeed they can help support them at home.
  • Parents and students think they aren’t musically talented. Natural musical talent is often misunderstood. As long as students know how to practice and do so regularly, they WILL get better.
  • The instrument is in disrepair. Students, parents and teachers need to be aware of the basics of instrument maintenance and be on top of repairs when needed so that the student isn’t mistaking a broken valve or reed for a wrong note.
  • Other activities are pulling the child. Life is all about priorities right. Especially as fall begins to ramp up, it is really important for parents and students both to be thinking about what they want to be involved in, and what they should be involved in. The old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none” is only too true when it comes to extracurricular activities. Also remember that the “quality of your “yes” is defined by the quantity of your “no’s”.
Lastly, voting is now open for Family Favorites presented by Style Weekly! It would mean so much to us if you would take a moment to vote for Passion Academy in the Activities categories: Favorite Music Lessons, Dance Lessons and Performing Arts Lessons. Thank you for your support!


Passion Pulse Vol 1 Issue 2

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Hello again to our Passion Community, and welcome to the second edition of Passion Pulse, our monthly newsletter where you get to hear the heartbeat of what’s happening at Passion Academy. It’s been an exciting summer, so let’s get right into all the goings on.

Passion Academy Voted #1 in Richmond Magazine

Have you seen the latest edition of Richmond Magazine? If not, be sure to pick one up and check out pages 182 and 158. You’ll see something that we hope makes you very proud. Passion Academy has just been honored by the voters in Richmond for having the “Best Music Classes for Adults” and the “Best Music Classes for Children”! Not only that, Passion also won 3rd place in the “Best Dance Classes for Children” and “Best Local Summer or Day Camp Program” category. A big thank you to all who voted for us and to all our Passion Academy supporters! We are indeed proud of the Passion brand, and we’re so glad that you are too!

And while we’re on the subject, allow us to make one final plug for our last music camp of the summer, our Drum Camp going on next week August 14-18. There’s still space though, so be sure to enroll right away if you’re interested!

Passion Academy is proud to announce the first annual Passion Arts Foundation Annual Benefit Concert this Saturday evening, August 12 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Independence Golf Club. Come enjoy an evening of musical performances by Passion Academy students and mentors, first-class cuisine provided by Tavern 19 and exclusive ‘Passion Symphony’ Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches, all for a great cause!

Have you heard of Passion Arts Foundation? It really is a part of what we do at Passion, and something that we would like more people to know about, so please mention it to someone the next chance you get. Passion Arts Foundation is the non-profit wing of Passion Academy, and it has one clear, distinct and very important purpose, to help provide outstanding quality music education experience for anyone who needs it but can’t afford it.

Currently we are working to raise money to provide music lessons for Virginia Ventura. Virginia is 25 years old and lives in Fauquier County. She has been a paraplegic since the age of 6 due to Transverse Myelitis. She used to suffer from depression since the age of 14, but continues to get stronger every day. She now desires to live out her passions and goals in ways that she has always dreamed about, but had no motivation to pursue. She has always wanted to play violin, electric guitar, drums, saxophone and piano and is full of the courage, patience and desire to learn them all no matter how long it takes. Due to her medical ailments, she has a very limited income that restricts her ability to afford tuition. Now more than ever, she has the desire to do things that make her happy, and we want to help turn her desires into reality.

With your help, Passion Arts Foundation will be able to provide a scholarship for Virginia’s music education. So please come join us at Independence this Saturday, August 12 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm for a night of great music for an even greater cause. Tickets are $10 per person.


The Passion Story

Did you know that the word “passion” comes from the latin word, “patior” which means “to suffer”? And did you also know that the context of the word centers around being willing to suffer for a purpose?

“When you are truly passionate, you are pushed along by your desire, to the point where you are willing to endure pain, suffering, and loss for the object which is the focus of your attention” (The Etymology of Passion)

Passion isn’t just about liking something, it’s about being willing to sacrifice for the thing or the person or the dream or the life that is more important to you than whatever it is you’re giving up.

In the last edition of the Passion Pulse, we promised to tell you the Passion Story. But this summer our fearless founders have been crankin’ away getting our West End location ready for the next chapter. So, in the meantime, while we’re still compiling that piece for you, we thought it would be fun for you to get to know a little bit more about a couple of guys who truly understand what it means to be “passionate”, both as musicians and as business owners, but most importantly as people. These guys have truly experienced the sacrifices, the hard work, the disappointments and rewards that come from following your dreams. So here’s a little “did you know” about our own Daniel Johannesson and Derek Smith.

~Did you know that Derek was born in Japan and Daniel was born in Sweden?

~Did you know that both Daniel and Derek have been married for over 10 years! Daniel and Katie for 12 years, and Derek and Deb for 18 years. Both of them knew their wives for at least 4 years before getting married. Daniel and Katie were together for four years before getting married, and Derek and Deb actually met in middle school in Bismarck, ND. And now, they both have 2 kids.

~Did you know that both of their wives are artists in their own right? Daniel’s wife Katie is trained in music and theater studies, and Deb has her degree in visual communications and graphic design.

~Did you know that Daniel toured professionally before settling down? He lived in New York performing on and off Broadway for several years.

~Did you know that both Daniel and Derek excelled at sports when they were younger before getting heavily involved in music? At 14 years old Daniel was the 5th fastest in his country in track jand field (that’s “country” not “county”). And Derek was, by points, the 3rd ranked BMX rider in the country at 8 years old.

~Did you know that both Derek and Daniel share a passionate relationship with God, and that both have powerful testimonies of how they discovered God and their faith?

~Did you know that Daniel and Derek both serve regularly on the worship teams at their churches? Daniel is the worship leader of the James River campus of Bon Air Baptist Church and Derek serves as a drummer at Hope Church.

Thank you guys for helping us understand the meaning of “passion” and for being passionate about us!

West End Construction Moving QUICKLY!

Our West End remodeling project is moving ahead at full speed and right on schedule as we get ready for the next chapter of our story. Many of you have experienced our new lobby already. What do you think? Comfortable and inviting?

Well there’s lots more to come. Construction is already in full swing on the new recording studio, and after that the band room becomes our much anticipated second dance studio! The best part is that all of this will be completed just in time for our fall season to kick off, and just in time to welcome our new world-renown dance instructor Daniel Swanepoel and his wife. They are going to be an amazing edition to our team and we would love for you to get to know them. Check out all their bio information and be sure to stop by the West End location to get a tour of the new digs!

The Music Parents’ Guide – Anthony Mazzochi

Do you remember the first time you ever learned how to play a musical instrument ? I don’t consider myself to have an outstandingly detailed long-term memory. I’m one of those, “I think that happened somewhere between five and ten years old” kind of people. But I do remember the first time I played the piano. I remember how it felt, what the teacher taught me, what the room looked like…everything!

There really is something special about the first time you learn an instrument. It’s like going underwater for the first time…a whole new world opens up. And, for any budding music students, the million dollar question (and for parents this can mean quite literally the “million dollar” question) is…which musical instrument should I play? How do you figure this out? Does it matter what instrument my child picks? How do we go about the process? Here are some hopefully helpful tips taken directly from The Music Parents’ Guide

  • The first step is the most crucial: picking an instrument that suits your child’s identity and personality and picking one that they want to play.
  • The most important thing is to have the student be involved in the process.
  • The second most important thing is to be aware of the many instruments available.
  • It is crucial that your child start by playing an instrument that they are excited about learning.
  • No one can make an educated decision about the instrument that they want to study without hearing it played beautifully. So be sure to give your child the opportunity to hear whatever instrument or instruments they’re interested in played well.
  • One of the biggest reasons students quit playing their instruments is unnecessary frustration. Instruments are challenging enough to begin with, so any physical limitations that could be avoided should be considered ahead of time.
  • All said and done, if a student really loves a particular instrument’s sound, you need to go with that!

As always, you can pick up a copy of Anthony Mazzochi’s book at either one of our locations. But in addition, we hope you will continue to initiate these kinds of conversations with the leadership at Passion or with your student’s mentor. We love to help guide people through the process because we love it when students truly discover their passion. It’s what we do!

Until next time…

Passion Pulse Vol 1 Issue 1

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Hello to our Passion Community, and welcome to the very first edition of the Passion Pulse, a monthly newsletter where you get to feel the pulse of what’s happening at Passion Academy, and a regular peek into where we’re going.

We believe that YOU ARE PASSION. You make this place what it is…Richmond’s Premier Academy for the Arts.  The definition of “premier” is “first in rank or leading”, and we really do believe that we are leading the way, not only in what we’re doing, but in how we think about each and every person that comes through our doors. Passion Academy is different in all the best ways, and we think that all of you make us stand out because you believe in our vision to mentor students in a way that gives them value, purpose, worth, creativity, discipline, and excellence. So, we say thank you! And we want to return the favor by letting you into the heartbeat of our life together here at Passion Academy. We hope you enjoy the very first edition of the Passion Pulse!

We Are Doin’ Some Damage in the West End…

If you are signed up for one of our many Summer Camps, you may have noticed a little demolition derby going on at our West End location. We’re still open for business as usual, but as they say, ”please excuse our mess.”  We are expanding and renovating so we have more room (and rooms) to meet the needs of everything going on in our programs. Here’s the scoop on all the exciting developments:

Phase One included the creation of a brand new “Studio 4”. This has actually been completed already, so if you come visit you’ll notice a new studio where the TV and waiting table and pay phone once were. But the most exciting part is that we are giving you a brand new lobby! We are creating a more private and inviting lobby space, right when you walk in, for you and all of our guests to enjoy while you’re waiting for your students or chatting with us and each other. We hope to have this all set up for you by the middle of August…enjoy!

Phase Two is something we are particularly looking forward to as our Artist Development and Band Development programs grow. We are adding a new, and much larger recording studio and “live room”, a space that can be used both for rehearsing and recording. These two programs are extremely unique, and hard to find elsewhere, so we’re really proud to be able to offer them.

Another increasingly popular program is our Electronic Music Production program. So the best part of this new addition is that now, we can use our current smaller recording studio exclusively for EMP studio space. This is a really popular art form, and we would love to see more students refine the gift they have in producing electronic music. So if you know someone who is getting into electronic music production please send them our way. We’re adding rooms to the house, invite people to come over!

Phase Three may be last, but it’s definitely first on our priority list and it will see the transformation of our current band room into a second dance studio! The new 2017-2018 Dance Schedule is now live and enrollment is currently open.

Passion Dance has really been taking off, thanks to our amazing Program Director, Sarah Ruppel Bullis and her staff. We really want to honor the great work that they’ve done and the excellent programs they produce by giving them another studio so they can add some more advanced classes and dance forms.

We’re also going to be welcoming back the very talented Daniel Swanepoel and his wife Caitlin from South Africa. They will be a great addition to our Passion Dance team and we are excited to have some more studio space for them to work in!

Passion Summer Camps Have Begun!

Question: What do you do with your kids in the summer, when there’s no school, it’s 95 degrees out and 95 percent humidity, and you’re not taking regular lessons because of your 6-day trip to Florida, the 4-day long weekend to the Outer Banks, and your mid-week jaunt to Grandma’s house?

Answer: You come to one of Passion Academy’s Summer Camps!

There is still some room left in the following camps, so sign up today by clicking on one of the images below:

Music Camps

Voice Camp (2nd Session)  July 24 – 28
Band Performance Camp  July 31 – August 4
Strings Camp (2nd Session)  August 7 – 11
Drum Camp  August 14 – 18

Dance Camps

Lion King Ballet Performance Camp  July 17 – 21
Jazz and Contemporary Camp  July 24 – 28
Hip Hop Dance Camp  July 31 – August 4
Summer Dance Intensive  August 7 – 11

The Music Parents’ Guide

Did you know that “every child has some degree of musical talent”? Did you know that “hard work trumps ‘natural talent’ every single time”? Did you know that “the majority of students quit an instrument after their first year of playing, not because they do not have music talent, but rather because their music teacher is not very good, or because the student has no idea how to practice, so they don’t make real progress and become frustrated. Or the students’ parents don’t have enough knowledge to support their children through the beginning stages of their musical growth?

These tips, taken from The Music Parents’ Guide by Anthony Mazzochi, and others like it can be extremely helpful if you are the parent of a young musician. We invite you to grab a copy of this at either one of our locations, but more than that, we invite you to start a conversation with your student’s mentor on how you as a parent can help them succeed.

That’s all for now…next month in the Passion Pulse we will give you a very personal and in-depth look at The Story of Passion Academy. Until then, we invite you to follow us, like us and share with us on Facebook and all of our social media channels!

Thankful and Grateful

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During this time of Thanksgiving, we would like to take a moment and thank all of the amazing students and families that we have the opportunity to mentor and influence each week. We are truly thankful for each and every one of you and appreciate your commitment to the Arts.

Here are a few words of thankfulness from some of our staff:

This Thanksgiving season I have so much to be thankful for. God not only has giving me life, family and love but has giving me strength that I didn’t know I had. Life messes with you sometimes but it’s our choice how to deal with those situations. I’m also learning to be patient. Not everything is going to happen when I want it to but through him, I’m learning to wait. I am also really thankful for true friendships. We encounter so many people throughout life but it’s the two or three true friends we really lean on! Life is good! It’s not perfect all the time but I’m proud of my students. I am honored to be teaching them! Thank you!

~ Abigail Lane
Voice and Piano Mentor

This season I am thankful for being  surrounded by very supportive and loving people. This year has been full of encouragement through both blessings and challenges. I am especially thankful for being able to share the love of music with students at Passion. It has been awesome seeing how they grow and change overtime in their musicianship and as people!I am also thankful for being able to study and pursue a career in music. I am of course thankful for family, friends, furry animals, and food as well. Definitely thankful for the food.

~ Colleen Christman
Voice Mentor

I’m thankful to be doing many things that I love, especially teaching my dancers. It’s been wonderful getting to know each and every one of my students. I’m grateful that my life has been so enriched by the unique personalities, senses of humor, and beautiful souls inherent within each dancer I’ve had the honor to mentor.

~ Savannah Singletary
Dance Mentor

This year has given me more than enough reasons to be thankful for. In 2016 I was accepted into the VCU School of Music, I started a promising career of teaching with Passion Academy, and I married the love of my life; Sarah Elizabeth. I am thankful for my family, friends, students, colleagues, and my wonderful pets! Of course, I am also overwhelmingly gracious for music and the joy it brings me everyday. Music has had an unprecedented role in my life, and I am eternally grateful for its impact on myself and my destiny. Beyond all else, I am absolutely thankful for my small presence in this seemingly endless universe.

~ Jeremy Hook
Guitar Mentor

I’m thankful for many things in life- family, friends, good health, and things of that nature but one thing I am truly grateful for is how teaching music has impacted my life. Having taught private lessons for the past nine years I’ve been able to interact with many different types of people which has helped me gain a broad perspective on many different issues. I have also been able to act as a mentor to many of my students and help them with challenges unrelated to music. All-in-all it has been, and continues to be, a very rewarding experience for which I am truly thankful.

~ Trey Harrell
Drum Mentor

In one way or another I am thankful for everyone in my life. Each person that I have come into contact with-whether it was just one time or a continued relationship- has either helped me, taught me, encouraged me, or loved me, which has built me into the person the I am today. I am particularly thankful for my husband and family who have always supported my passion for dance and the way of life surrounding that passion.

~ Sarah Ruppel Bullis
Dance Program Director

We are so thankful to God for what he has brought our family through and all of the good that has come out of tough situations in trusting His plan for our lives. We are also thankful for the amazing opportunities Passion Academy has provided for children and adults. We love our students, parents, and family of amazing mentors that do such an amazing job at teaching and growing the talent of each and every student.

~ Daniel and Katie Johannesson

When we look back over the past few years, it’s difficult to put into words how thankful we are for everything that has occurred in our lives and business. We have been blessed with so many wonderful relationships and partnerships. We are thankful for the endless support that our family and friends have shown through encouraging words and selfless acts of kindness. Helping others achieve their dreams and goals in the Arts is a tremendous responsibility that we take very seriously. We’re honored and thankful for the opportunity to be involved in so many precious lives through Passion Academy. The best is yet to come!

Derek and Deb Smith

A few other mentionable quotes

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~ William Arthur Ward

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie. ~ Jim Davis

We must find the time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. ~ John F. Kennedy

What if, today, we were grateful for everything? ~ Charlie Brown

If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share. ~ W. Clement Stone

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving. ~ W.T. Purkiser

Why Practicing Practicing from an Early Age Is So Important

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This post was written by performance psychologist Dr. Noa Kageyama.  Noa is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and teaches performing artists how to utilize sport psychology principles and more consistently perform up to their full abilities under pressure. For more tips on effective practicing, learning, and performing, visit his blog, The Bulletproof Musician.


A few years ago, I heard Robert Duke (who was once a band teacher) tell a story about how he flipped practicing, and got his students to beg him to be allowed to practice more.

Essentially, he told his students that they were not allowed to take their instruments home, until he had heard them play individually and gauged whether they could practice effectively and avoid developing bad habits.

Once they demonstrated a certain level of practice competence, they could take their instrument home – but only practice for a limited amount of time.

When they proved that they had reached the next level of practice competence, their daily allotment of practice time would increase, and so on.

This created a situation in which students would feel great pride in how long they were allowed to practice, and would essentially compete with each other to see who would be allowed to practice longer.

I thought this was a hilariously clever tactic, but the underlying idea upon which this is based is an important one.

Can young students be trusted to practice effectively on their own?


Two Australian researchers did a study tracking young musicians’ practice habits over a three-year span, to see how effectively young learners could self-regulate – or control and direct their own learning behaviors in six specific areas:

  1. Motive: How capable are students of initiating practice on their own?
  2. Time: How much do students practice? How effectively do they manage their practice time?
  3. Method: What sorts of practice strategies do students use?
  4. Performance outcomes: How capable are students at monitoring, evaluating, and controlling their playing?
  5. Physical environment: How effectively do students structure their practice environment to minimize distractions and maximize learning?
  6. Social factors: How much initiative do students take in seeking out help that might help them improve faster (asking questions, help from parents, etc.)?


157 families were approached, but relatively few agreed to videotape practice sessions, and fewer still followed through on a consistent basis. Ultimately, seven students’ videos were selected for inclusion in the study.

The included students were all aged 7-9. Two were complete beginners who didn’t know how to read music, while the other five had learned another instrument previously.

The practice videos spanned a 3-year period, and the researchers selected two practice sessions from the first year and two from the third year to analyze in greater detail.

Here are a few of the more interesting findings:

1. Motive

Even at this young age, there were clear differences in motivations for learning an instrument. Some expressed more externally motivated reasons, like wanting to be in band because their friends were doing it. Others had more internally driven reasons, such as liking music, or wanting to play specific pieces they liked.

Ultimately, the researchers found that the children who had more extrinsic reasons for learning made the least progress, while those who identified intrinsic reasons progressed more quickly. It seems that students motivated by a more personally meaningful reason to learn are more likely to engage in the kinds of behaviors that maximize learning.

2. Time

Not all “practice time” was actually spent practicing. In year 1, for instance, only 72.9% of their time was spent actually practicing. They spent the remainder of time engaged in activities like looking for music, day-dreaming, etc.

As a group, they became more efficient practicers over time, but there were pretty significant individual differences from the very beginning. “Male Trumpet 1”, for instance, spent less time practicing than the others, instead engaging in avoidance behaviors like fiddling around with his instrument. As a result, it took him 3 years to reach the same level of playing that many of his peers had reached in 1 year.

The researchers suggest that tiny differences in the beginning can add up and have a significant impact on subsequent learning and students’ progress as the years go by.

3. Method

As you might imagine, the beginners’ practice strategies were pretty unsophisticated. The most popular strategy was to simply play the piece through from beginning to end, which represented about 95% of their practice time.

There were some additional strategies, like foot-tapping, counting, thinking, singing, or silent fingering, but these were pretty rare to see (<2% of their time).

Another finding, was that despite being asked by their teachers to repeat pieces until they came more easily, ~90% of the time, students played through a piece only once, and looked pretty content to move onto something else once they got to the end, regardless of how it sounded.

4. Performance Outcomes

One of the key areas of self-regulation is the ability to know when you’ve made an error, stop playing, and fix it.

In year 1, most of the young learners simply ignored their pitch errors (there were so many rhythm errors that the researchers stopped keeping track). But here too there were individual differences. Some students were much more capable of noticing and correcting their errors, and played better on the second run-through of a piece, while others actually made more errors on subsequent run-throughs.

Based on their data, the researchers suggest that teachers stop during lessons and ask students to reflect and comment on the accuracy of what they just played.

This could then be the basis for teaching students strategies like mentally singing the opening phrase before playing, or looking at the music to identify potential trouble spots, or remembering to think about the tempo or key before they play.

Their other suggestion was to occasionally take a momentary time-out in lessons and ask students to demonstrate how they would practice a tricky section. To see how they approach listening and problem-solving – to essentially practice practicing in lessons.

Two take-aways

Admittedly, it’s a small sample of students, but the researchers make two specific recommendations based on the observation that while most of the students displayed the desire to practice in the videos, they didn’t appear to have the skills required to practice effectively.

In other words, while their teachers were helping them identify what to practice, the students weren’t very clear on how to practice. Students were also not so great at noticing errors and monitoring the quality of their playing.

Thus, the researchers’ recommendations to teachers were twofold:

1. Spend time demonstrating or modeling specific practice strategies during lessons, that students can try using at home during the week.

2. Find ways to help young learners reflect on the quality of their practice time. Whether through practice diaries or goal-setting exercises, help students get better at listening/evaluating their own playing, and making better decisions about what to spend time working on. Because these are not necessarily things that students will intuit on their own – and the researchers suggest that the tiny differences that start to appear even in the very first practice sessions accumulate over time and could very well be the difference between a student who practices harder, is more confident about their learning ability, and achieves at a higher level, and a student who lags behind.

The Value of Toddler Movement Classes

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by Sarah Ruppel Bullis

I’m thrilled to witness that in the past several years a growing number of people have realized the importance of dance education for children. I have noticed that more and more schools in the Richmond area are including dance as part of their curriculum. I personally teach movement classes to infants through adult age, and have noticed that those students that start at a very young age and continue through their childhood development are much more advanced in every aspect of their life than those who have not. Dance has been a part of my own life since the age of 2, and I attribute much of the success in life (communication, organization, and memorization skills, discipline, manners, excellence in school, and success in business) to what I learned in dance classes. This is not to say that my faith and my parents’ encouragement and way of raising me were not significant; however, without a doubt, years of dance classes ingrained the above elements of success into me and have shaped me into who I am today.

It is never too early to put your children into dance classes! Ponder this: babies move before they talk. Movement is an innate part of us. Why not learn how to coordinate movements at the early development stages of our lives? A “dance” class for a toddler does not mean that the toddler will be learning serious dance technique of any particular style. A toddler dance, or better known as creative movement, class entails that the students will learn and perfect the foundations of dance: coordination, balance, spatial awareness, rhythm, pattern recognition and memorization, expressiveness, and creative thinking.

I cannot speak to the specifics of all toddler movement classes, but I can speak for my own. I have been teaching young children how to dance for 20 years (yes, I was 10 years old when I started to arrange dance classes at my house for the younger children in my neighborhood), and I now teach the Creative Movement and Dance Discovery classes at Passion Academy. This blog in particular will focus on these 2 classes. The additional younger-age classes on our schedule follow the principles I describe below with a format based on the age group and style of the class.

Both Creative Movement and Dance Discovery classes are parent participation classes. Thus, the child does not have to have prior movement experience to attend one of these classes because the parent and teacher will help the child with the movements. Do not think that your child has to be “good” at dance or moving in order to enroll in a dance class. This is what I will teach them with your help!

I believe that individual attention from the teacher is important in every dance class, and thus, the student body in each of these toddler classes at Passion Academy is small. I limit the number of students in each class to 6 or less so that I am able to teach the sequences as well as provide individual attention to each student several times during the class. A limited numbers of students also helps keep the number of distractions to a minimum.

The Creative Movement and Dance Discovery classes are 30 minutes long, which I have found to be the perfect amount of time to keep a toddler’s attention with movement exercises. Each class begins with different warm-up exercises on the floor that will attune the students’ ears to the rhythms of music, familiarize each student with his/her own body, and introduce mild stretching. These warm-ups are repeated every class, and I gradually advance them as the students demonstrate their understanding and perfection of them. After our warm-up section, we perform different standing and moving-around-the-room exercises that teach coordination, directional movement, balance, jumping, and pattern recognition/memorization. I use colors, shapes, numbers, and musical tempos to teach these exercises. Finally, the last bit of our class includes a themed portion where the students will “become” something or “go” somewhere and learn how to move their bodies accordingly. I provide the guidelines for these movements and then let the students’ creative minds take over. In the more advanced Dance Discovery classes (ages 3-4), the children work up to learning short dances during this part of class. All of the above exercises include the use of multiple props as a way to better engage the children in the exercises, teach tactile coordination, and to help encourage their creative minds with the visualization of different objects that can be “seen” as different things, depending on the theme (i.e. a hula hoop could be a pond or a nest or a vehicle). Additionally, music is used throughout the class to assist and inspire each movement. However, unlike many other toddler dance classes, I do not use music with words to accompany the sequences. I use only instrumental music to better attune my students’ ears to the musical rhythms and so that they hear my words and instructions without the distractions of words in the songs.

Thus, as seen above, these movement classes will aid in the physical development of your child by teaching him/her body awareness, spatial awareness, coordination, and balance. They will enhance the development of cognitive thinking by teaching  rhythmical counting, following directions, problem solving through movement, and pattern recognition and memorization. They will encourage his/her emotional development by inciting the use of facial expressions and imagination during the themed part of our class. They will advance social development as your child dances with other toddlers and is taught social skills such as sharing and staying in line. Finally, they will enhance your parent-child relationship by providing you and your child time set aside each week to work and learn together in a loving, encouraging, positive environment.

And one final important note for these classes: Do not give up on your child’s ability after the first class! It is very rare that I will have a young student perform or participate in every movement exercise or sequence in the first class. This takes consistency and time, which is why the repetitive nature of my classes is extremely important. The first 20 minutes of class is repeated each week and gradually advanced throughout the session, and I always repeat the entire 30 minute lesson plan (i.e. the same theme) 2-3 classes in a row. The repetition will allow your child to learn and become comfortable with the movements, and the goal is that he/she will eventually be able to perform them on their own. Also do not compare your child’s progress to another student’s progress. Every child learns at a different pace, and it is up to you to encourage your child to continue at his/her own pace. Patience and positive reinforcement is the key!

Passion Dance Program Director
Creative Movement and Dance Discovery Mentor

Passion Dance offers several classes for students under 5 years old:

Creative Movement  9:30-10:00am (Ages 18-24 months)
Creative Movement  10:00-10:30am (Ages 2-3)

I Got Rhythm  10:00-10:30am (Ages 16-24 months)

Creative Movement 9:30-10:00am (Ages 18-24 months)
Creative Movement 10:00-10:30am (Ages 2-3)
Dance Discovery 10:30-11:00am (Ages 3-4)
Creative Movement 4:15-4:45pm (Ages 2-3)

For young dancers interested in an introduction to tap or ballet ballet technique, we offer Primary Tap and Pre-ballet classes during the following times:

Primary Tap
Monday 10:30-11:15am (Ages 3-4.5)

Tuesday 10:30-11:15am (Ages 3.5-4.5)
Friday 11:15am-12:00pm (Ages 3.5-4.5)
Friday 3:30-4:15pm (Ages 3.5-4.5)


Who Actually Quits Musical Instrument Instruction — Children or Their Parents?

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by Anthony Mazzocchi

How many times have we heard from adults that they wish their parents didn’t allow them to quit their musical instrument when they were younger?

There comes a time in a large percentage of music students’ lives when they want to quit their instrument — and more often than not, parents allow them to do it.  But is the child quitting … or is the parent?

I remember wanting to quit the trombone when I was in middle school.  Honestly, it’s hard to remember why.  It could have been peer pressure, boredom, or something else — but I had my mind made up.  I shudder to think of what my life would be like now if my mother had decided to quit as well and give in to my pleas.

Ultimately, it is important to understand that when it comes to music education and other transformative activities that require some grit in order to succeed, most children go through a period of time where they must succeed despite themselves.  They must be encouraged and supported through the tough times, not given a pass.  It is only at a certain point that children — and parents — can make an informed decision to quit their musical instrument, and that point is usually much later, not sooner, than one may think.

Here are a few ways that parents are the ones that quit music instruction, and some thoughts on overcoming the tough times with our children that are bound to occur:

“I can’t bug my child to do one more thing”.  I have heard this line so many times as a teacher and administrator.  A parent tells the teacher that their child will be discontinuing music because they haven’t had any luck getting their child to practice, and the “child doesn’t want to play anymore.” In addition, the parent says the child “seems to be over-scheduled and is overwhelmed with the demanding school curriculum.”

This parent has clearly given up.

There are many things that children need to do that they do not want to do. They don’t want to bathe, do homework, brush their teeth, or do their chores oftentimes.  But we as adults understand that we would be teaching them to be irresponsible if we gave in.  We also understand that children are not old or mature enough to make many life decisions — but when it comes to quitting music instruction the rules somehow seem to change.  The truth is that we can insist our child do “one more thing,” and if that’s really not humanly possible, a curricular activity such as music should not be at the bottom of that list.

Parents have overcommitted their child.  Our children are growing up in a time where the U.S. has turned into a society of “overachievers”. Downtime or activities that are perceived to be “fun” (i.e. music and the arts) are considered wasted time because concrete results are not being measured and money (and a job) is not at the end of the equation. Children have so many choices of ways to “enrich” their lives that quitting has become an easy response to frustration or boredom. Most adults regret many of the things in life that they quit, especially because they could have had stuck it out, reached a good level of proficiency and found that enjoyment that seemed to elude them earlier.  Parents need to remember this fact and encourage their children to stick with music instruction for at least two years, if not through middle school.

Parents must remember what their goals for their child’s education is.  Perseverance, commitment, loyalty, and grit are all values I hope that I — and my schools — instill in my children. Learning to endure something even when it temporarily becomes boring or unpleasant or when the teacher isn’t the most engaging person in the world is a lesson truly worth teaching. I would argue that the time you let your child walk away from something just because at that moment it doesn’t suit them is the last time you may have any credibility with them about endurance or resilience ever again.

Parents, teachers and students have a misguided view of passion.  Parents often talk about helping kids find their passions.  When parents allow their children to quit music, we often hear excuses such as, “Music is not where my child’s passion lies, it seems.”  But most of the time, passions do not always appear out of nowhere; they are often a result of hard work and dedication — the happiness that comes from doing something well over a period of time.  I have spent most of my life reaping the rewards of a life devoted to music, yet in 7th grade I was begging to quit.  And there are thousands upon thousands of other children who were not allowed to quit who have gone on to rewarding lives in many fields that would never have been possible if not for their musical education.

Parents need to embrace the struggle that their children are facing.  The reward of performing a piece of music after overcoming obstacles during practice is a great vehicle for parents to teach their children that true growth occurs when we struggle a bit.  Learning to deal with struggle yields some of the greatest benefits imaginable over time when applied to other areas of life.  But a child’s struggle is a parents struggle as well, of course.  There are bad days — and some really frustrating days.  There may be tantrums and miserable practices and screaming scenes where you may feel as if you are at the end of your rope. But if you stick with it, your children will have long, enduring relationships with instructors and classmates who will change and enrich their lives.  Don’t forget to reach out to your child’s teacher for extra help during these challenging times — I promise you that they will pass.

Your child’s experience with their music studies will shape their adult lives more than you will ever know.  They will be different people in the best way imaginable — people who would be far poorer intellectually without music in their life.  Let’s not kid ourselves — children quit things all the time.  Sometimes it’s even the right thing to do, but sometimes they are simply bored or don’t like the teacher or would just rather do nothing at home — and that is not acceptable or in their best interest over the long-term. Deciding when to let your child quit is a difficult problem that never goes away, but it is safe to say that one year is simply not enough time for anyone to decide whether to stay with musical instrument instruction or not.

Maybe you didn’t study music.  Maybe you quit prematurely and you didn’t even realize it — but the road is open to your children, so steer them down it.  They will never tell you later in life that they are angry at you for not letting them quit.

Learn simple steps to becoming a great Music Parent in Tony’s new book:

The Music Parents’ Guide – A Survival Kit for the New Music Parent


3 Things Parents Must Tell Their Children When They Begin a Musical Instrument

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by Anthony Mazzocchi

Hopefully your child will begin a musical instrument through their school music program.  If so, when they bring home their instrument for the first time, it is more than just an exciting day…

...It is an opportunity...

…Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities in your child’s life thus far.

If you are like me, you want your kid(s) to complete their K-12 education with far more than factual knowledge and an ability to score well on tests.  You don’t believe that your child’s success in life depends primarily on cognitive skills — the type of intelligence that is measured on IQ tests and such.  You don’t believe that school should be primarily focused on stuffing kids’ brains with as much factual knowledge as possible, but instead is focused on growing skills and mindsets that will last a lifetime.  Psychological traits that include

  • The patience to persist at a tough (and perhaps boring) task;
  • The ability to delay gratification;
  • The curiosity and grit to problem solve;

…just to name just a few.

 And the musical instrument in your child’s hand could be the key to learning those skills.

You see, your child didn’t receive an instrument with the expectation that they would become a professional musician, just as they did not receive a math book with the expectation of them becoming a mathematician.  But, unlike any other subject, your child has the opportunity to develop some of the most important life skills through learning to play an instrument, and you need to let them know this is the case.

Here are three things parents need to know and be able to express to their child as soon as they begin learning to play a musical instrument:

“You are allowed to fail, and you will become better because of your failures.”

There are no red pen marks for missed notes in music the way there are on tests — there is nothing to feel bad about when you play something “wrong” in music.  To become skilled at a musical instrument — and to become great at anything — one needs to struggle a little.  In your child’s case, they need to sound bad before they sound good; they need to work on things just beyond what they are capable of in order to get better and smarter, and that means they need to make mistakes.  There is a small gap between what we all are able to do and where we want to be, and focusing on that gap makes us better learners and better people.  Learning a musical instrument allows us to grow from our mistakes.

“Hard work trumps talent every single time.”

Practicing a skill over and over, the right way, fires circuits in our brains that solidify that skill.  Sure, some people find some skills easier at first than others, but the people who practice that skill daily in order to “burn it” into their brain will always far surpass people who don’t practice enough.  Practicing a musical instrument helps children learn the universal truth that hard work trumps talent.

“This is a long-term commitment, and we are going to stick with it.”

Studies have shown that students who identified that they would play their instrument for longer than one year outperformed students who only committed to one year of playing by up to 400% — practicing the same amount of time if not less!  The ideas and mindsets students bring to their musical instrument study have a direct effect on their success, and it’s the parents’ role to set the tone on the first day by not giving their child an “easy out” to quit.  Make the decision to invest in your child’s music education for at least a few years of their schooling and you will see results.

There are not many subjects taught in school that have the potential to give our children the life skills they need to be successful beyond their school lives.  Our children can learn how to have grit, motivation, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and character during and after their K-12 schooling — and music is the vehicle to teach these skills.

What if we as parents treated music like any other core subject and expected our children to study it for at least 4 or 5 years? What does “success in school” mean to you and your child?

Learn simple steps to becoming a great Music Parent in Tony’s new book:

The Music Parents’ Guide – A Survival Kit for the New Music Parent