About Allegro Studios

In the fourth grade, I took nine months of piano lessons. I did not take another piano lesson until my first quarter of college. Please bear in mind that this is not a testament to some great "talent" or giftedness — it turned out to be a valuable lesson in self-discipline and responsibility. It is also, indirectly, how Allegro Studios came to be.

Growing up in a frugal, yet music-loving family, I had begged for lessons and finally my parents relented. They would pay for lessons as long as I practiced without complaint and made good progress. After nine months of working on a total of maybe a dozen songs, my mother cancelled the lessons. In fairness to my mother, I knew it was coming. I knew that 12 songs in nine months was terrible progress. She had warned me. She had reminded me to practice. We did not have money to "waste" on lessons that I was not going use appropriately.

My mother is also very smart. She knew rarely a day went by that I wasn’t at the piano. Of course I kept playing, and occasionally, I would even ask if I could take lessons again. Certainly! They would say, if I had the money, I could pay for my own lessons. So I did, eventually, pay for my own voice lessons, working part-time at McDonald’s, and later piano lessons, all out of my own pocket. That will change your attitude about practicing.

So how did the little girl who got "banned" from piano lessons end up making a livelihood out of it as an adult?

Those first few lessons made quite an impression on me at 8 years old. Now having not practiced — at least not practiced what I was supposed to — made me dread lessons. It wasn’t that I didn’t love music or playing the piano. It wasn’t that I had some mean old troll of a teacher. It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable. In fact, I was very fortunate to have one of the most respected teachers (now I also think, most patient) in the area. I did learn quite a bit in those nine months. And I happily applied everything I learned to any music that was not in my assignment. Who doesn’t want to play "Fur Elise" instead of "Mr. Frog is Full of Hops?" "The Entertainer" instead of "Some Old Folks?" "Silent Night" instead of "Christmas Finger Fun?" (Actual song titles—I am not making this up.) I’m also sure, to the complete frustration of my teacher, I would occasionally be assigned a "Yankee Doodle" or my all-time favorite, "Lightning Ranger" and practice them to flawlessness.

Outside of duct-taping a child to the piano bench, there just had to be a better way. That early experience formed the basis for how I was not going to do lessons. I was convinced that if lessons were different, I would have made more progress. I was convinced that if someone had asked me, even at age 8, I could have expressed my desire to do well, my confusion about what I was expected to learn, and what type of music I found interesting. Add to that, years of teaching experience, attending conferences and workshops with music education pedagogues, completing some graduate-level coursework, talking with private instructors and performing musicians, and Allegro Studios was born.

I wanted to develop a lesson that puts students at the core. All other methods, processes, requirements, etc. had to center on student success and interests. Setting up students for success and developing a love of creating music led to developing a reasonable, yet defined, practice schedule — teaching students how to practice for maximum progress over a minimum time. It led to continually researching the best materials available for lessons. It led to doing away with many aspects of traditional lessons. No competitive performance requirements, no unnecessary memorization, developing student independence and skill retention, and using multiple reading strategies including music theory from day one. It also led to developing communication with students and parents about interests, goals, and motivation; especially being open with students about songs that are "boring," but worthwhile and why. As this approach took shape, more people began to request lessons because they were hearing from you, that you and your child were so happy with your experience.

So now, here is Allegro Studios, only a year old. Student enrollment has more than doubled. Features that I was not able to provide as a solo instructor include: opportunities to work with other highly qualified music educators and performing professionals, families being able to choose a single half-hour in the week to do everyone’s lessons, and lesson times available Monday-Friday 2pm-9pm. I hope other helpful, convenient, and musically enriching features will continue to be added. I am always open to suggestions and welcome your comments — you influenced how we do things today.

As the studio grows I hope that I will always remember the quietly defiant little girl who learned a lot at lessons, but refused to be restricted to "Mr. Frog is Full of Hops." I sometimes wonder if I had been more cooperative and self-disciplined, would I be more accomplished and proficient than I am today? Perhaps, but you will never hear me regret. I love my work. Thank goodness I was such a horrible piano student. I would not be so passionate about what I do and how I teach without that experience. Every student that provides a challenge, intentionally or not, provides an opportunity to reassess the current system. Is there a better way to do this? Is this meeting this individual student’s needs and interests? Is this making the student as successful as possible?

In music the tempo marking “Allegro” at the very beginning of a piece is an Italian adverb that instructs the musicians, "To be played in a quick and lively manner." Quick and lively, just like lessons should be.

Jodi L. Quint, Director, B.A. Music Education
Allegro Studios
August 1, 2007

Make Music - have fun!