At a recent recital held at the beautiful concert space at Boston Court Pasadena, students of South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy could be heard playing everything from Mozart and Bach to Taylor Swift and The Foo Fighters! Yes, The Foo Fighters. Because, as SPAMA director Rebecca Ward will tell you, everyone at the Academy is passionate about music in all its forms. Moving their epic recitals to Boston Court Pasadena is just one of the exciting things developing at SPAMA and now is your chance to be a part of it all because their twice a year fundraiser for SPEF is January 21 – January 27 (Extended to Feb 3). It’s a $10 lesson week where you can reserve a 30 minute private or group class to try something new and all proceeds go to SPEF to support our schools and students in our community.
“This is such a good time for us to be having our $10 lesson week because there are so many exciting things happening here,” says Ward. “Our chamber music program is really growing and doing great things. I am coaching a chamber string ensemble and we do everything from Baroque era, to Bartok, to Game of Thrones! We really dig down into what makes small ensemble playing exciting – learning to listen and really learning how everything you’re doing relates to what everybody else is doing around you. It’s like being on a sports team – everybody is playing a vital role and we function as a unit with the idea being to create one beautiful sound through harmony, counterpoint, and rhythmic counterpoint. We are responsible to each other and rely on each other, which is a beautiful thing and kind of a wonderful way to go through life, honestly.”
“Having the students perform at Boston Court is really special – it’s such a special place and one that is truly built for what we do. I feel like it honors all of the work and all of the passion that all of our students bring to what they do.”
The goal, Ward says, is to get our students playing together as much as possible. To that end, they offer the chamber string ensemble that works with both Ward and new piano teacher, Samuel Glicklich, who switch off coaching so as to bring both perspectives to the group. They are looking to do jazz ensembles, pop and rock ensembles and right now Glicklich is leading the new Keyboard Lab. It’s a group keyboard class where you are playing on keyboards with headphones and you have both individual and group instruction. That is a 12 week course that works as an onramp to private lessons – a prepatory class if you will. General manager, Alexandra Domingo leads a new Theory Lab, which works on ear training and rhythm identification. It’s a place where you can practice and perfect skills away from your lesson so that those skills become stronger when you go into the lesson. “I can tell you I have learned in my life just as much from music theory and musicianship classes I’ve taken as I have in my private lessons,” confides Ward.
The Academy is about to launch a new Stepping Stones class on Saturday mornings, which is their music class for little ones ages 3-5, taught by Rae Shrum. Whole Steps for the itty-bitty ones is on a break for the moment and should be starting up again soon.
Along with Glicklich, Nicholas Ginsburg has also been added to the staff. Both are new and exciting piano teachers. “I am really delighted that they are here. They are both excellent and can teach from very young beginners all the way up to our more advanced students. They will be teaching our Keyboard Labs and will be working on big concertos and giant pieces with the advanced students. We have Mauricio Lopez who is our cellist. He comes to us from Venezuela and he has worked with students in Venezuela for years and years and Venezuela’s loss is our gain,” says Ward. “I love working with him. He’s been part of our faculty concert series.”
SPAMA launched a Faculty Outdoor Concert series which are fun, low-key concerts held in the school’s lovely back courtyard area, replete with wine, cheese and camaraderie. “We have a deep bench of talented people and I think it’s important for students to see their teachers perform in this kind of setting. It’s inspiring for them and for us.” The concerts are also open to the public and your price of entry includes wine, cheese, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to choose from. Be watching this space for these and other upcoming concerts.
While Ward, as she lightheartedly says, worships at the alter of chamber music, she’s quick to remind me that SPAMA has something for everyone, from pop vocals, to jazz and rock guitar, ukulele, drums and all genres from musical theater to folk and singer/songwriter. Devon Curry is a new teacher who has both a classical degree and a pop and jazz degree and teaches drums, guitar, bass, piano, and ukulele.
“We love nurturing songwriting in our students”, she says emphatically, “having them develop and produce their own work that is a tangible project product they get to take home with them. We always want that and we have Marcel Borbon who is teaching both. He teaches classical guitar, jazz, and he teaches improvisation. My favorite thing at our recitals is that you will hear jazz, blues, musical theatre, the Beatles. And we’ve encouraged parents to perform with their children. This past recital, we had a little girl who played the ukulele and sang a duet with her Mom. We had a little girl who played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the violin with her Dad. So we want to involve everybody.”
And a reminder, SPAMA is 100% for adults too! So again, this $10 lesson week is a perfect opportunity to dust off that guitar in the corner and see what you can do with it.
It’s been about a year and a half since Ward and her husband, Jonathan Dinerstein (who is also the accompanist for the recitals), took over SPAMA and they are both amazed at how things are growing and developing. “Jon and I look at each other all the time and go, can you believe we get to do this? Every time we’re in the building. I love being here. I love chatting with the teachers. I love talking to the students and their parents in the lobby – I love the energy and the buzz of creativity.”
And her message to the community today? “Come see us. Whatever you want to be doing, I bet we have somebody who can help you do it. I am certain we have whatever is exciting to you, whatever is exciting to your children right now. This is a special place to be and this is such a good opportunity to come in and see what we’re doing, check out our beautiful back garden and come meet our exceptional teachers. And all in the name of benefiting the South Pasadena Educational Foundation and the remarkable work they do. I mean, you will never find a group of people more dedicated to making their community better than the people at SPEF and it is an honor and a privilege to get to help them with that. So come and see us – we are doing special things here.”
For more information and to sign up for your $10 lesson, please call the studio at (626) 808-4031 or email Staff@ArtsMusicAcademy.com