A Fairfax music school makes learning music more accessible

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Many of us have a passion for music without ever learning to play an instrument. The prospect can seem daunting, especially for those of us well past college. However, there is an irresistible power that comes from playing an instrument and focusing on learning a new skill. Once you start playing music, it can be hard to stop.

Sterling Conservatory of Musiclocated in Fairfax, Virginia, and serving the area, makes it easy to get started.

Founded in 2009, Sterling Conservancy of Music offers music lessons accessible to students of all ages and skill levels living in DC and Northern Virginia, including piano, harpsichord, guitar, harp, voice, and vocals. musical theater coaching. Teachers come from some of the most renowned music schools in the world, but don’t be intimidated – SCM is geared towards community enrichment, accessibility and, above all, fun.

We spoke with director Gretchen Sterling about her work, career (and lifelong passion for) classical music, and the benefits of learning to play. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

District Fray: What is your history with music?
Gretchen Sterling:
I started learning the piano at the age of 7, but spent my early days experimenting on my grandmother’s electric organ. I then studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, Wales, and was one of the youngest students ever accepted into the undergraduate program, auditioning at the age of 15. . I completed my Masters in Piano Performance from the London College of Music and began my teaching career in the United States in 2008, earning a reputation for innovative methods of teaching piano technique. I studied with renowned artists, which allowed me to experience a unique tradition of classical training that goes directly back to Beethoven and the Russian composer Nikolai Medtner. Additionally, I completed Professional Studies in Music and the Brain at Berklee College of Music, and hold certificates in Audio Engineering and Music Production.

What makes the Sterling Conservancy of Music unique?
We are a group of highly adaptable and diverse professionals gathered in one place. Our recruitment process is very selective. We’ve truly carved out a niche for ourselves as one of Metro DC’s and Northern Virginia’s top music centers for adult students, and we’ve created a real community here for adults who can connect socially, intellectually and emotionally.

What are the benefits of learning to play music, especially for adults who love music but haven’t practiced before?
The benefits of music last a lifetime. First of all, it’s fantastic for the brain. Adults in particular can reap huge rewards mentally and emotionally, as the practice of learning music develops new neurons in the brain, keeps critical thinking skills sharp, improves memory and, especially in a setting school, allows for social connections with like-minded people. Especially as an adult, it can be difficult these days to form lasting bonds with other adults who aren’t co-workers or neighbors. People who are interested in the same subject naturally develop stronger bonds, and because music really requires a longer-term commitment, it improves connection possibilities and strengthens communication skills. In addition to the social benefit, music dramatically improves working memory, which is a skill many people could improve, as well as pattern recognition, listening skills, and creativity.

What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged from learning a new skill?
Cut yourself some slack. Especially as adults, we spend most of our lives learning to categorize and becoming critical thinkers, but as we carry these rigors into adulthood, we become psychologically embarrassed. There is also a disconnect between the reality of learning – which requires failure and error to grow – and intellectual understanding equal to achievement. When it comes to music, people generally begin to feel discouraged when their level of intellectual understanding is higher than their level of physical achievement. Learning an instrument takes more than just understanding. Putting this understanding into regular and consistent action takes courage and discipline. The best advice for someone learning music is to set small, realistic goals, be patient and persistent, and be humble. Those who laugh at their mistakes and carry on are far more successful than those who are frustrated with expecting something unreasonable from themselves. This is another reason why learning music is so valuable. It teaches us to be open-minded and to forgive our imperfections.

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