Music in Chappaqua Opens Doors to a World of Musical Understanding Through Personal Instruction for Children and Adults
There are two schools of thought with regard to introducing music to young people, as well as to adults: Crack the books, memorize scales and chords and concentrate on reams of sheet music until you’re proficient; or, allow self-expression to free you from inhibitions, and gracefully accentuate the positive, allowing the student to gravitate to their instrument of choice, and music in its entirety.
This latter methodology is wholeheartedly embraced by Janet Angier, a superbly gifted musician in her own right who has nourished the talents of hundreds of students at the highly regarded Music in Chappaqua, the music academy she founded two decades ago this year, and presides over today.
Music in Chappaqua is a harmonious blend of creative musical oasis and serious learning environment, attracting students from all walks of life, genres, ages and interests. Many of its graduates have gone on to pursue successful careers in music and the performing arts. Yet it is Ms. Angier’s entrepreneurial spirit and pedagogical prowess that draws learners to her music school year after year.
“What I try to instill in our students is that through music the individual can have a voice. Regardless of genre or the path you take to get there, lessons should support a path to the student’s own self-expression” Ms. Angier explains. “Music is a true gift.”
In 1993, she took her love of music and dedication to teaching (she taught music on and off for over 25 years) and opened Music in Chappaqua. Not surprisingly, she notes, “it really blossomed! “There was great demand” for such a school, she notes. Students gravitated to the school from all over Westchester, New York City and also Fairfield County in Connecticut. “The students were very hard-working; it was a very positive situation for everyone. Families were and are very involved in their children’s progress as were their teachers.”
The school, located at 225 North Greeley Avenue in Chappaqua, NY, expanded rapidly and continues to grow. With private lessons and rock workshops to a summer day camp for rock-band enthusiasts, Music in Chappaqua offers inspired instruction in piano, voice, violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, drum, clarinet, saxophone and songwriting. About 20 faculty members are associated with the school, and students range in age from three years old to working parents and retirees.
The school has grown both as a business and as a sanctuary for learning. Ms. Angier discovered long ago that as an entrepreneur, she needed help to make her endeavor a successful one. “I have a very good support system,” she explains. She has been teaching since the age of 14. “I enjoy the creative side of programming,” she explains, “giving myself the creative freedom to develop new programs.” The time has permitted her to become more “innovative and ambitious… to bring new lessons and ideas that inspire people even more.”
Part of this inspiration comes in Ms. Angier’s approach to nurturing students and unleashing the creative being eager to surface in every budding musician. Imparting the rudiments of music and exploring avenues to musical enrichment do not have to rely on memorization and forced instruction, she insists. As such, she has cultivated the concept of teaching through a freer, more passive route to musical enlightenment.
“What I’ve seen in public schools and in the many generations that have passed through my teaching and school is that the way music is often taught through the written page, works for some, but not all,” Ms. Angier explains. She envisions one day articulating her alternative methodology to public school music teachers and hoping they will embrace it as fervently as she has. Accentuating the positive, rewarding successes along the way, and reveling in the joy of creating music supersedes traditional study for many and is their preferred route to fluency, she says.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if young people could enjoy practicing by themselves?” Ms. Angier queries, rather than being forced into isolation endlessly with little appreciation or enthusiasm. “I’d like an approach where the intellectual level is reduced and the ‘feeling’ is more embraced,” she adds. Allowing students to choose a few chords and give them a rhythm to play with can set them on the road to understanding and improvised creativity. “It’s instant gratification,” she adds. Visits to Nashville have confirmed her observations: “I’ve seen how they teach bluegrass and the same applies in such things as African drumming circles. The non-Western approaches are very successful, and socially based, rather than intellectually based. This could be very gratifying” if offered as an alternative in the regular public school music curriculum, she feels.
Ms. Angier champions the idea of students relying on self-expression early on in their study, rather than waiting years for their teacher to say “Add expression”. “In teaching, it’s important to notice the good things: What you see and what you focus on is what develops. If you notice what the student is doing right, they’ll notice that as well, and it will grow. I encourage everyone to see the good, and not to focus on the things that are not.”
With all of her myriad endeavors, it is Music in Chappaqua that is closest to Ms. Angier’s heart now. There are plans to broaden course offerings, and to expand the Summer Music Program to appeal to a wider audience. For now, she enjoys her role as educator, administrator, facilitator, and promulgator of a warmer, more enthusiastic and more spiritual approach to bringing the joys of music to her current roster of students, and, vicariously, to generations to come.