This summer we welcomed new faculty member, Julia Long, to Charlotte Academy of Music (CAM). Julia is a Certified Suzuki Instructor. Recently Julia sat down with our Front Desk Administrator, Danelle Walker. We hope you’ll enjoy this interview.
What made you want to be a music teacher?
I have always loved working with children, and music has always been a
big part of my life, so it just made sense when I was given the
opportunity to be a helper teacher with a violin outreach program when
I was in high school. I quickly followed that up with the first steps of my
Suzuki teacher training. I love being able to help others understand how
to do something, and be able to explain and guide them to an answer or
Who is your biggest musical influence?
As far as performers, I always find inspiration in the “greats,” whether
Heifetz, Perlman, Stern, or some more recent musicians such as Hilary
Hahn, Joshua Bell, and Gil Shaham. I particularly love how Gil Shaham
plays. I do have to credit my teachers for musical influence, however, as
they were the ones to really help me to access my inner musicality.
How do you feel music education enhances the student?
A timely question, considering how many arts programs are being cut
around the country. Of course music education develops patience,
perseverance, creativity in problem solving, and many other points that
have been shown to aid in school performance. However, I also find it
irreplaceably important in our technology-heavy, fast-paced, instant
gratification society, which is preoccupied with goals and results, to
have a daily “practice” of some sort. It teaches consistency as well as
how to enjoy being on a plateau with something, not always on an
upward spurt of “success”. This is an important key to having a happy
life—being able to be fulfilled no matter the circumstances.
What is the most important quality in a successful Suzuki student?
The same as in any student—a desire to learn, and the willingness to try
and to stick with it, even despite frustration.
What is the main difference between Traditional lessons and Suzuki lessons?
Suzuki as a method uses a specific graded set of literature. As a
philosophy, Suzuki emphasizes daily listening in order to build an
excellent ear for intonation (important for string instruments without
frets), parental involvement (the “Suzuki triangle” involves student,
parent, and teacher to help provide a positive, nurturing, nonjudgmental
environment in which children flourish), cyclical learning (using old,
familiar repertoire to teach new technique), group classes (children
learn from each other and develop the skills to play in an ensemble),
and delayed reading (not to a fault, but in order to properly set up the
student on the instrument and develop a solid ear before adding the
complexities of another language).
Did you have any challenges as a student of music?
I had a hard time breaking out of my shell, musically. I embraced each
new technical challenge, but for a while had a hard time “baring” my
musical self to others.
What is your best advice for a parent if their student loses interest in Suzuki
I would encourage them to read Mastery-The Keys to Success and Long-
Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. Our society is based so heavily on
instant gratification, but it is extremely healthy to have a daily
“practice” of something. It might not always go well, but one learns a
lot through the task of doing something on a daily basis. It is also
incredibly beneficial to talk to other parents, which is another benefit of
group classes—it builds a community. Parents should never be afraid to
ask other parents or their teacher for ideas/inspiration. While all
children like the feeling of accomplishing something and being able to do
something well, they are often not able to see the path to get there,
and need frequent encouragement to practice and stick with it.
How important is a parent to the success of a Suzuki student?
EXTREMELY important. Especially with younger students, practicing is
not something that a child finds intrinsic motivation in yet (even middle
and high schoolers can be this way…). In Suzuki, the parent is the home
teacher, gently reminding the student of what occurred in lessons,
guiding them through repetitions, and enjoying a special daily time with
their child through shared musical practice.
If you could use only one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
Caring. I care deeply about each of my students and their families, and
want each of them to be happy.
Do you have a favorite piece of music?
Brahms Quintet for Piano and Strings in f minor, and the Sibelius violin
What is your favorite type of music?
A mix…anything from classical to Broadway, salsa, pop, or indie.
What type of performances have you done?
I have given plenty of student recitals, as well as several full degree
recitals throughout my undergraduate at Indiana and masters at USC. I
also played with the IU orchestras for symphony concerts, operas, and
ballets, and with the USC orchestra, as well as several professional
orchestras in the Carolinas and surrounding states. My favorite
performances have been either playing for operas, or giving chamber
music recitals with string quartets or piano trios.
If you weren’t a music teacher, what would you be?
I would do something in the medical field. I wanted to be a pediatrician
for a long time, but now I think I might have gone into occupational
Who was your favorite music teacher? What made that person stand out to
By far, my most influential teacher has been Dr. Brenda Brenner, my
undergraduate violin professor. Her teaching embodies everything that I
strive for in my own, both in pedagogy and nurturing approach.
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
I love building a relationship with each student and their whole family,
and see them grow as people. I love watching each individual student
struggle with and work through their weaknesses/difficulties, and
emerge with a smile on the other side.
How has music influenced you?
Music has always been such an integral part of my life that it is hard to
put into words. It has given me an outlet through which I have
discovered other interests, met some incredible friends and mentors,
visited exciting places, and developed confidence.
How long have you taught music?
I have been teaching violin in various places for about 11 years.
What is your #1 goal as a music teacher?
My goal for each student is to provide a non-judgemental environment in
which the student can learn and develop their technique and musicality,
alongside their unique personality.
How has your teaching style evolved?
After years of teaching in different programs and observing many
colleagues, I have a pool of experience and ideas to draw from. Every
student is unique, and every technique can be broken down into
hundreds of steps, in hundreds of unique ways, so the more options to
pull from, the easier it is to find an individual solution. It has also
become easier to meet the child where they are each week instead of
having a set lesson plan in mind. I can see where they are and what
their needs are and adapt to that.
Why should a student take lessons with you?
To develop as a musician, violinist, and person through a combination of
the methods/pedagogies of Suzuki, Paul Rolland, and Mimi Zweig, and to
be part of a growing program at CAM!
For more information on our Suzuki program at CAM, please visit our Charlotte Suzuki Strings website.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Einstein
Albert Einstein indeed possessed a love of science, but also for his cherished violin. It was said that the two would never travel apart. In fact he was once quoted as saying “Life without playing music is inconceivable for me.” I refer to this brilliant man in relation to a new study which has shown that practicing music actually improves the symmetry of your brain. Take a man like Einstein, a man with so much creative original thought and to what does he attribute his efforts? Music. According to Einstein he would “often think in music.” He said, “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
If we are to create brighter minds for tomorrow, more minds like Einstein, we should be pushing for the creative arts right now. Music is something that Einstein spoke of with great passion. I would postulate that it would be impossible for you to find even a single person that is not moved by a particular song or piece of music. It would seem that like storytelling, music is just something quintessential to the spirit of being human. Story and song can be found over thousands of years and thousands of cultures. Music has a unique result on the brain in relation to emotional responses. These effects can in turn actually re-wire our brains. Music stimulates some very primal spots of our mind. The centers of reward, planning, motivation, and of course emotion. A 2009 study established that extended music practice actually increased the parts of the brain relating to hearing and dexterity. The same study also provided the evidence of a “more fine-tuned connection to others.” The participants that had also studied music were actually able to better detect emotions in conversation via their tonality.
A more recent study goes into finer detail while observing a group of musicians in a fMRI. The group of musicians included keyboard players, cellists, violinists, bassoonists, and trombone players. It is surprising that the effect is instrument-specific,” says Marcus Pearce at Queen Mary, University of London. “It’s one thing to see differences in brain activity when they’re playing their instruments, but they’re just listening,” he says. “The perception of music is changed with musical training.” The instrument that stood out from the others was keyboard. The keyboard players were more likely to have synaptic symmetry than those playing stringed instruments.
Creativity feeds science and science feeds creativity. In order to be truly creative the mind needs to be exercised like any other muscle. Music is not only a way to stimulate that muscle, but cultivate a deeper connection with your fellow species. I will leave you with this final quote from Einstein, “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”
– Salvatore Pecorella, Charlotte Academy of Music
Many Charlotte Academy of Music piano students participate annually in the North Carolina Music Teachers Association (NCMTA) Piano Contest. In 2015, CAM was proud to have 10 State Finalists, including 7 State Winners.
Participating students must perform a piece from each of the three musical periods (I, II, and III). At least two of the compositions a student plays must be from the level at which the student is entering. The third composition may be from an adjacent level, either above or below. Only students entering at level Junior B and higher are eligible to advance onto the State level. The purpose of the NCMTA Piano Contest is as follows:
- To provide students and teachers a means of receiving constructive criticism by competent judges.
- To stimulate and to recognize constant growth.
- To provide students and teachers a means of hearing the work done by others.
As a resource for teachers, parents and students, we have included several links which we hope will prove helpful.
2015 – 2016 Repertoire Lists
CAM has also created playlists so that students and teachers save time in finding recordings of the NCMTA Repertoire.
Salvatore Pecorella, Charlotte Academy of Music
In the age of technology we live today, you can find an answer at the click of a button. There is knowledge being spread everywhere free of charge. While this is a good and noble thing, it can have negative consequences. Being able to find any answer to any problem kills the propensity to be creative. One finds the answer because someone else found it for them. It required no original thought or innovation to attain the knowledge for oneself. While this instantaneous access to data can be a good thing in a time of need…over the long span it could kill the creative synapses of the mind. The government wants to put focus on a program called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). While there are many attributes to this type of focus, it clearly misses one thing. Every STEM needs some soil to grow.
Enter the arts! Let’s play a game. If I said to you I wanted to make a cut in funding to an area that stimulates: physics, communication, socialization, inspiration, coordination, cultural awareness, patience, problem solving, collaboration, efficacy, goal setting, discipline, acoustics, history, and therapy…what would you say? Does that sound like an “extra” area to you? An area that deserves a cut in funding? I thought not! The arts need to be seen for what they are…CORE.
The US is currently in a state of transition. A transition that is slowly shifting the focus of subject matter in our schools. The arts are being cut to make way for more science and mathematics courses. Tada! I give you STEM. A program like STEM means well, but ends up cutting the one area that makes all of this innovation possible. The arts have been shown to lay the groundwork that stimulate the mind to be creative. These imaginative classes have been deemed as an “elective” most of the time. However, it is time for them to come out of the shadows and take back the slots that are so rightfully theirs. Music studies help students understand mathematical concepts. The National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education states it very simply, “Listening to and making music form strong connections in the brain. These are the same connections used to solve mathematical problems.” Mathematical concepts help students solve complex scientific equations. Scientific research and mathematical knowledge help develop new engineering methods. All of these help to further develop new technology. The visual and performing arts help students learn to think outside the box. STEM eliminates the imagination to think outside of what you have been told. How far can information take you? There will come a time when the problem is not given, but rather stumbled upon. A new problem that will need innovative thought to solve. Here is where the arts step into the development process as they drive the cortex in a positive manner. Knowledge of musical concepts lends itself to composition. Composition of new chords and tunes that you find pleasing by experimentation. By learning to create an original piece of music one has to use creativity, science, math, and if we are being truly innovative (for example, creation of a new musical medium) engineering. The same can be said of visual art. Especially in today’s world, visual art is a way to let yourself free. There is no form more pure than a type of expression that accepts all mediums as true concepts. Even when someone disputes as to whether or not something is truly “art”. This is a stimulation of debate and causes a person to create an intelligent argument as to why, or why not, a piece is/ is not “art”.
The arts help to form the creative, goal oriented, communicative adults of tomorrow that will lead our society into the future. It is easy to say that the STEM approach will breed smart and educated members of society. But at what cost…creating information spitting robots? Will they be able to solve new problems that arise with creative new solutions, or stumble and fail because of a lack of imagination? The arts are the very soil needed for the government’s STEM!
What is your favorite advice for students?
Never compare yourself with someone else. Everybody starts somewhere and everybody has to work hard to get where they are. So the best thing you can do is write down your goals and then practice, practice, practice until you reach them. It’s easy to get frustrated with practicing and not feeling like you’re getting anywhere, but you won’t get anywhere if you just give up. Your heroes didn’t give up, so neither should you.
Tell us about the summer camps you will teach at CAM.
I am so excited about all of my camps this summer! As always, we will have our ever popular Mo’zart camps this summer. I love these camps because they not only give budding pianists a great foundation, they also offer students who play different instruments or sing an opportunity to try out the piano and see if they like it before they commit to a full semester of lessons. We have a lot of fun in those Mo’zart camps!
I’m teaching another Composition camp this summer and I can’t wait! Last year we saw great success and collaboration amongst students with different instruments and abilities, so it was wonderful to hear what they came up with. We were able to have a performance on the last day of the camp to show off all of their original pieces.
I have a new camp this year called Piano Olympics. This one is going to be a riot. We are going to have different competitions all week in categories like “fastest scales”, “best sightreader”, and “best dynamics”, but we will also mix in fun games with relay races and funny ways to play the piano so it will definitely be fun! I can’t to see which students can play while sitting backwards or with a leg in the air!
What is your proudest teaching moment?
In my first year at Charlotte Academy of Music, I taught a student a trick to remembering key signatures. She got really excited and said, “I understand it! It’s always been so confusing in the past, but now I get it!” I was over the moon! It’s funny how such a small thing can mean so much to a teacher.
Who was the biggest influence in your musical career?
My parents were my biggest influence. They both are professional musicians and my dad was my band director from 5th grade through 12th grade. I learned everything I know about music, teaching, and communication from them. Sometimes I’ll be teaching something and I’ll realize I sound exactly like my parents. Oh, and that trick for remembering key signatures from earlier in the interview? I learned that from my dad.
How often, where and what do you perform?
I don’t perform regularly anywhere, I just do random gigs with different people. I sing classical, pop, or jazz music for weddings, I sing jazz standards around town with different groups at bars or restaurants, I have written and performed background music for a movie, and I have done solo gigs for private functions. Basically, I write/play/sing whatever someone hires me to do.
You’re coming up on your 3 year anniversary with Charlotte Academy of Music. What is your favorite thing about teaching here?
I love the support and inspiration I get from the other teachers here. Everyone is always willing to help when I have questions or need advice, and they also help develop new ways to teach so that we can all be better. I have found my home at the Academy, and I just love teaching here!
Our current Beginning Piano Class students presented their first (ever!) piano recital on January 25, 2015. The joy of achievement shined on the faces of these young musicians as their proud parents, siblings and teacher beamed from the audience. We were impressed not only by their music but their excellence performance etiquette. Each student bowed before and after their own pieces and were attentive and respectful audience members as well. Bravo, students!
The Academy is currently enrolling for a new session of Beginning Piano Class. Contact us to learn more!
It’s that time of year again when many are setting New Year Resolutions, and putting a plan in place to reach their goals. It’s like a fresh start, and that’s..well…refreshing! What are you hoping to accomplish this year? Perhaps on your list is music. Whether you are thinking of starting your music journey, or you are setting goals to further your skills, Charlotte Academy of Music can help!
“The beautiful thing about music is that it is for everyone,” says Regina Ziliani, Owner and Executive Director of Charlotte Academy of Music. Ms. Ziliani continues, “Children and adults of all ages can benefit in many ways from music study. We are all familiar with some of the research that indicates the advantages students who study a musical instrument show on test scores and college acceptances. But the study of music goes far beyond the academic classroom. A recent study at the University of Vermont College of Medicine showed that the more training a child has in music, the greater their attention span, anxiety control and emotional control.” In adults, we find that music study benefits both their mental and physical health. Research indicated loneliness, depression and even the effects of Alzheimer’s disease has been shown to respond to music, and some studies have even linked music making to better functioning of the immune system.
There are a myriad of music learning opportunities at Charlotte Academy of Music. For beginner pianists the Academy offers both private and class instruction. The Academy offers lesson opportunities also for guitar, voice, string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. Summer opportunities in addition to private lessons include introductory and specialty camps and a fully-staged and licensed musical theatre production. Other unique avenues at the Academy are the Piano Artistry program, for serious young pianists, as well as opportunities for students to participate in ensembles with other instrumentalists.
Start 2015 off right! Let Charlotte Academy of Music help you choose a teacher, and instrument and start making music!