Without a doubt, CMA is one of the most forward thinking music education programs available. I first discovered CMA’s founder, Michael Stegner performing at Egan’s, a local Jazz Club here in Seattle. The performance began with a teen trio (drummer, bass player and pianist); they were young, fresh and clearly having a lot of fun together. As the set progressed each performer gradually traded out for an adult instrumentalist; it turned out, the second group of performers were the faculty of the students who had opened the set. For several days following the performance, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much joy and the performance had generated not just in the players but also in myself. I subsequently contacted the owner of Egan’s to find out the name of the adult pianist. The owner wrote back “Oh yes, that’s Michael Stegner’s crew from CMA – Michael is an amazing human being”. With that endorsement, I contacted CMA and as luck would have it Michael had an opening and I was able to start lessons that very next week. That was in 2007; thirteen years later- I’m still taking lessons with the studio and feel that joining CMA was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life.
I joined CMA 13 years ago and have studied under four of their piano teachers. Each faculty shares the same educational philosophy: Music is a creative, shared experience and the best way to motivate a learner is for the teacher / learner relationship to be both enthusiastic and fun. (I’m an educator and love the added benefit of learning from gifted teachers.)
My favorite experience has been the group lessons; four students and the teacher take turns passing the melody and improvising with one another – that’s the best.
Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve all transitioned to on-line lessons. CMA was well prepared, as Michael had been experimenting with on-line teaching for at least a decade prior to COVID-19. I never thought I’d be up for on-line learning, but Mason Lim, my current teacher makes each lesson something to look forward to. We ZOOM for 30 minutes. The warm up starts with mirroring exercises designed to reinforce ear training and experimentation with jazz motifs. Mason weaves in history and shares examples of famous musicians and songs highlighting the motif. While I'm performing the homework from the prior week, he updates our Google slide set with some practice riffs, ideas for enhancing musicality, audio samples and homework for the coming week.
Thankfully, the CMA teachers are well versed in on-line learning techniques. I’m confident they’ll find a way for our student group to reassemble and create music in real time – online. CMA stands for Creative Music Adventures: Come join the party, your kid and in my case your inner kid will be glad you found this community! - Patricia Stern