Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Starting the New Year on the Right Note

Our Melrose studio is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year!

                                                               by Christine Terrisse

We here at Hollywood Academy of Music had a wonderful winter break and welcome you back to lessons for the start of the New Year.  We are so proud of all of our students who performed at the recitals we held in Santa Monica, Burbank and in Hollywood at Vinoteque. 

To see the progress that our students have made over time is such a pleasure. As we are coming up on our ten year anniversary at the Melrose studio, we would like to take the time to acknowledge the instructors who have been here with us for several years and who have been a part of what makes our schools so special.

Be sure to look out for announcements from us on upcoming events and unique ways we will be celebrating our anniversary.

We look forward starting this New Year with all of you. If you have any questions about any of our upcoming special events or about your lessons or are thinking about adding on a new instrument but have questions, we would love to speak with you.

Thanks for playing music with us!

Christine, Albert, Kirk and Samantha 

Instructor David with his drum student Leo Feldman at our 2013 Winter Recital

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hollywood Academy of Music Opens in West LA


                                                   School Director Kirk Nebel joined by students and faculty at the new West
                                                              LA Hollywood Academy of Music.

                                                                          by Christine Terrisse

Music education has the ability to empower anyone to pursue their dreams of playing music or singing. For nearly ten years, the dedicated staff at Hollywood Academy of Music have been working hard to help make those musical dreams come true for people in the greater Los Angeles area.
On Saturday, April 20th, in a ribbon cutting ceremony and Open House, Hollywood Academy of Music welcomed its newest studio, located in West Los Angeles at 12111 Santa Monica Blvd. The latest school offers the same quality instruction as the North Hollywood and Melrose locations. I spoke with Kirk Nebel, Director of all three schools, about what inspired him to open the new studio and about how important music education is to him.

“Getting involved in the local arts community and helping to ignite the passion for music in students of all ages is so much fun and really rewarding. My first child was recently born and I’m really happy she can take lessons from our great teachers.”  

When asked how the location for the new school was chosen he says, “My wife and I have been living in Santa Monica for about four years now, and we really love it.  I wanted our new location to be close to home so that Hollywood Academy of Music has a presence in our local community. Expanding the school and developing new local talent is such an exciting prospect.”

Prior to becoming School Director, Kirk spent many years teaching guitar and bass and now says that his favorite thing about running three music schools is the challenge involved. “I’ve found that life is more fulfilling when I take on projects that push me to do more than I think I’m able. It’s a lot more rewarding to make something happen when it’s a challenge.”

Maintaining and running three music schools in three different locations, while staying connected to each individual neighborhood and community can certainly be a daunting task. Kirk says the payoff is even greater because of that challenge.

“Each one of us at Hollywood Academy of Music gets to be involved in the growth of many wonderful people and their families, on both a musical and personal level.  At our recitals we get to see amazing performances from our students and it's just awesome for parents and friends to witness their progress and growth. I really do believe that musical skills can be such an important and valuable thing in life because they are transferable to other areas such as emotional intelligence.”

Located in a shopping center with convenient parking at the corner of Santa Monica and Bundy, the new studio features bright and cheery practice rooms, a comfortable light filled waiting room, and has an overall clean modern look. The Open House featured giveaways, refreshments and some free classes taught by the new staff of talented instructors. The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce was on hand to help with the ribbon cutting ceremony and welcome the new school to the community. When asked what he hopes that anyone who comes to any of the Hollywood Academy of Music schools will take away from their lessons, Kirk said:

“Our goal is for everyone to take away from their experience here the fun and joy that comes from playing and performing music! We are an education based organization and its a given that learning is crucial for our students, but ultimately, we are trying to inspire passion for playing music.”

...And, no doubt, inspire some of those dreams to come true.

For more information about the Hollywood Academy of Music- West Los Angeles Grand Opening and Open House just click on the link below: :

Thursday, October 6, 2011

5 Guilt-Free Ways Busy Adult Students Can Make Time for Their Music

By Christine Terrisse

Most adult students are enthusiastic to start taking lessons and to begin a new hobby.  It’s exciting to dive into the new world of music.  If you are doing this primarily for fun, in essence you have the best of both worlds – you can practice when you want and no one is forcing you to go to your piano lessons with a scary task-master or practice your guitar under threat of becoming grounded!  Of course the downside is that it can be frustrating and create a lot of guilt when you find yourself making excuses for why you didn't get a chance to practice this week (or for the last two weeks!!!).

Many of the adult students that take lessons at Hollywood Academy of Music do so because they need to work on something for a role they are learning, for the band they are in, or simply because they are fulfilling a lifelong dream of always playing a certain instrument.  The one thing they all have in common is that they want to take lessons for a specific reason.

Giving yourself the gift of music is a great way to enrich and enhance your life.  However, you won't get better unless you practice.

Practice you say?  The word itself gives us flashbacks of sitting in math class in elementary school.  Here are four ways to incorporate practicing into your busy schedule when you don't have mom or dad over your shoulder making you do it:

1)            Integrate practice into your daily routine.

This is something we recommend parents to do for their children, but it works for adults as well. Try incorporating your practice into your morning or evening routine around your work schedule.  Are you a morning person? Try waking up a little earlier than usual, before you have to get your kids up for school, or get yourself ready for work. It can be a great way to start your day. I know I'm wiped out in the evening and would rather watch Dancing With the Stars so I never schedule my practice time after work.

2)            Don't beat yourself up for not practicing. 

While it is a very important part of learning anything, remember you are going at your own pace. You are taking these lessons for you and for no one else. Emily Carlstrom, my voice teacher has always told me that while practicing everyday is ideal, you will learn and improve by coming to your weekly will just take longer!

3)            Find creative ways to incorporate practice. 

If you are a voice student, you can record your lessons with your teacher playing the accompaniment for songs, or download a karaoke track for the song you are working on and work on it in the car. If you sing every day on your morning commute think how much better you would get. You have to be willing to support some stares from other drivers, but it is well worth it. While this won't work for the trombone, there are other ways to get creative. If your child is taking music lessons, try working on your instruments at the same time or sharing what you are learning with each other.  Practice during commercial breaks for your favorite show; bring your guitar to a family picnic, or the beach.   You are an adult now, so you can control where, when and how you practice!

4)            Balance between "work" and "play" practice sessions.

Learning a new or difficult concept with your instrument can be difficult, there are some practice sessions which will be challenging for that reason.  There will always be peaks and valleys on the road to your goal, so reward yourself after working on a difficult area by having the next practice session be a "fun" one.  Sing with abandon, create a family "jam session" night, sign up for an open mic... don't worry about how "good" you are doing in these sessions just experience the joy of what you have already learned.

5)            Reassess Goals   

The most important thing for the adult student is motivation. What are you practicing for? Do you want to learn for learning's sake? Then you should choose an instrument you have a fascination or love for. If you are learning because you want to turn into the next John Mayer or Lady Gaga in one month, you might want to scale it down a notch.  Start simple or you might find your enthusiasm waning.

Remember practice makes perfect and perfect isn't the same for everybody!  This is supposed to fun, so do your best to enjoy your time playing your instrument or singing, and you’ll get the best results. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Performance Anxiety - How to overcome nerves before a big show!

by Christine Terrisse

Every performer whether a child performing at their first recital, or a famous actor, gets nervous sometimes when they perform in front of people.  Feeling nervous is very natural. In one way, its a good means you care about presenting your very best. However, it is very frustrating to realize that some of the physical reactions to nervousness can negatively affect your ability to do your best. Here are three simple tips to gain control over your nerves before a performance:

1. Prepare  The best way to combat fear is through preparation.  This is all the weeks of practice you have been putting into your piece or your instrument. Take confidence in the fact that you have been coming to classes and you have been working on this at home. Even if your nerves were to take hold, you have a basic foundation to hold you up.  If you know you have a performance coming soon, go over your piece more than you normally would.  Pinpoint trouble spots with your instructor and work on those extra hard. Imagine when you are rehearsing alone that you are performing for an audience, this will make it less strange to you when you have a real audience.

2. Trust  Trust in your instructor. Know that they are not setting you up to fail, they want you to succeed. They would not allow you to perform something they did not think you were ready for. Trust in the audience.  They want to enjoy your performance and if you are enjoying it, they will too. Remember, they don’t know the piece as well as you do, so they won’t necessarily know if you messed up or not.  Act like nothing happened and they will think its a part of the show!  Most importantly, trust in yourself.  You probably know it this better than you think you do. Its always good to aim for excellence, but you don’t need to be perfect when performing.  Some of the most memorable performances ever have had mistakes in them.

3.  Breathe  How can breathing be a solution to calming nerves? After all, we are always breathing and we don’t even have to think about it. True, but when you are nervous your body releases a chemical called adrenaline, which tells the body to be prepared in case of danger. This is why your muscles tense up, your hands shake while playing or your mouth feels dry.  Your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. If you stop for a moment and take long, slow and deep breaths, your body will begin to calm down.  You might still be a little nervous, but you will be in control. So breathe, smile and step on the stage!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Art of Songwriting - How to write a great song in 1 hour

Songwriting is a wonderful and cathartic experience.  A songwriter gets to craft something completely original that includes both lyrics and music - what an amazing thing to do!  Like any other craft, writing good songs takes practice and hard work for anyone who wants to excel.  For many aspiring writers the idea of writing a song is intimidating and creates a sense of fear because it can seem like a huge endeavor.  Here's a step-by-step process to write a great song in less than one hour. 

1.  Create a chord progression.

Take three chords and create a simple rhythm.  For the sake of simplicity we are going to take three chords in the key of C.  We'll use the I, IV and V chords - which are C, F and G.  The I, IV and V chords are the foundation of most contemporary pop songs, so we'll start there.  Play the chord progression on your instrument over and over until you have a smooth and consistent rhythm track to play while you create a melody.

2.  Create a melody.

First of all - let's define the word melody:  a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence.  This is the tune you hum after you hear a very catchy song.  The easiest way to create a melody is to record the chord progression you've created on a small tape player and then play it back while you create your melody.  You can create your melody by improvising with your voice - or you can also actually play a couple of notes out of a scale on your piano or guitar while you're playing back the chords on the tape player.  Experiment until you feel confident that you like what you're playing.  Sing or play the melody over the recording until you're comfortable and you can repeat the same thing over and over without making mistakes.

3.   Lyrics

For lyrics it's best if you have written some random thoughts, poems or ideas on paper prior to settling on final lyrics.  If you bring no previously written ideas free association is the best way to come up with new lyric ideas.  Take 5 minutes and simply write everything that comes to your mind.  Play back the chord progression you recorded and sing your melody and see if anything fits with what you've written.  Don't over-think this step, as you can always go back and edit the lyrics at a later time.  The key is to come up with a finished song - editing will come later.

4.  Arranging & Editing Your New Song

After you've created the chord progression, melody and lyrics - the next step is arranging the song.  There an infinite number of ways to arrange a song, but here is a common way to begin:

Instrumental solo or bridge
Chorus x 2 

Keep in mind that your melody for the verse should be different for the verse and chorus.  A verse is often wordier and tells a story.  A chorus typically is simple melody and shorter phrase that is repeated over and over so that it catches the listeners ear.  The music behind the chorus and verse can be exactly the same as long as the melody is different. 

Record your song on a simple tape recorder and you've just finished writing your first song!  If you work hard and keep honing your craft perhaps you'll be up for a Grammy someday - keep writing and keep the faith! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Start Your Own Band Fast - in less than 4 weeks

Starting a band can be an intimidating project on the surface.  It seems like something that might take years of hard work to do.  But all you really need is a little bit of skill and a healthy dose of motivation and you can do it!  Here are is a step-by-step process on how to start your own band FAST!

For the sake of keeping this piece short and to the point - let's assume you either play an instrument or sing.  So you're looking for band members to surround yourself with, rehearsal space and gigs.

STEP 1 - Finding band members.

The most seamless way to find band members is to simply post ads on craigslist, or any other local industry magazines (in Los Angeles there is and  These are all free publications.  Post ads at least several times per week and find like minded musicians!  If you can't find 4 or 5 people for your band - start with two.  A duo or trio can be a great way to get off the ground in the beginning.

STEP 2 - Auditions

Let's say for now you don't have a rehearsal space or your own music studio to 'crank up the volume'.  Go ahead and start auditioning unplugged in your home or apartment.  This means playing super low volume together so that you can get a sense for what people do live.  You'll want to select one of your original songs for them to audition or a cover song or two.  Pick the best musicians for your style and sound!

STEP 3 - Song Selection

Choose 3-5 songs to rehearse with your new band.  Try to choose songs that are already written and recorded or cover songs - so that you can hand out copies for the other band members to work on at home.  Remember - rehearsal is not meant to learn these songs . . .  It's meant to work through the songs as a group - that you've already learned at home individually!

STEP 4 - Rehearsal

Too often musicians get caught up in the mindset that they must rent out Madison Square Garden to rehearse for a show when it can be done on a much smaller scale.  Start out by rehearsing at home at a very low volume.  Have the drummer use brushes and turn off the snare drum, or use alternate drum equipment with mesh heads to that you're not loud.  If you're still too loud or can't control your drummer, book a 90 minute rehearsal once per week at a local rehearsal studio and have everyone pitch in to cover the cost.  Going rate should be $15-$25 per hour at most local studios - depending on where you live.  Other alternatives for rehearsal include:  your drummers garage, your base players attic, your guitarists church, your uncles basement:  get creative and see what opportunities are right in front of you!

STEP 5 -  The Gig

Check with your local clubs to book a show.  Tell them you'll bring all of your friends and give an accurate count of how many people you can bring.  Here's one thing to know about clubs; they are primarily concerned with how many people you can bring through the door!  The great thing about this is if you are able to really promote the show to your friends and family you can create your own following which can help you get great gigs!  The other thing to check out are "open mic" shows.  These are shows where a series of musicians play 1-3 songs as a way of getting themself out there.  You usually do not have to book this show as they will often have a sign up sheet at the gig and you just show up and play.  If you perform well and BRING PEOPLE the club will book you for a regular gig oftentimes.  In case you haven't been reading - the key is to bring people out to see your band.  This ensures that you will get more opportunities to perform.  Good luck and keep rockin'!