On a musical mission in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

On a musical mission in Eagle County

HL Sera School2 PU 5-28-08

Before each performance, students took a bow, then waited for their instructor’s command to begin, much like the grasshopper and the sensei. Only these weren’t students of martial arts, but of music. And this was their chance to show off their talent in front of friends and family, not in a ring or on a mat, but on a stage adorned with pianos, guitars and chairs.

Dozens of children sat in the front rows of Vail Mountain School’s theater Wednesday night awaiting their turn to display what they’ve learned through Sera Schools, a music program led by instructors who travel to different schools throughout the valley and teach kids how to play and appreciate music. The recital featured kids as young as four, each getting a moment in the spotlight. Many of them blushed as they braved their way through piano and guitar performances, others had the confidence of long-time players that loved the attention.

“I’ve been learning how to play a lot better and (about) performing on stage,” said Joshua Sand, a 12-year-old Eagle resident and Sera Schools piano student.

Dressed in a black suit and tie, Sand looked like a Sunday school student Wednesday night. During his performance he nailed a solo of “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov. Although nervous during his performance, he said he had fun.

Sand took private lessons before entering Sera Schools’ program, but said that it has helped him grow as a piano player.

Kaylie Evans, 10, is taking her guitar playing education further through Sera Schools. She played guitar for a few years but joined the program a few months ago. Evans said she’s getting better and will continue to improve.

“I’m extremely proud. She really takes to music and I think there’s a lot of talent with it so I’m hoping she continues to do it for a long time,” said her mother, Michele Evans.

She likes the way the teachers bring an element of fun to the classes, keeping it interesting so the kids don’t tune out.

Indeed, that’s just one of Brita Fay’s goals. Fay started the program in California with her husband John in 2005. They brought the program to Colorado when they moved back a year and a half ago. Fay, 28, said she’s played piano since she was 4 years old, taught piano since she was 10 and used to be a concert pianist. She decided to focus on teaching small groups as a way to keep costs down for students and maximize the time in the class. Now Sera Schools visits four schools through the valley ” Vail Mountain School, Eagle County Charter Academy, Eagle Valley Elementary and Brush Creek Elementary ” and has seen the number of students grow from 30 to 75. Fay hopes each student’s experience will lead to an enjoyment and appreciation for the art.

“We didn’t realize there was such a need in the valley, and we’re grateful to be so well received,” Fay said.

But Sera Schools isn’t for everybody; Fay said the programs are designed for beginner to mid-level students.

Mike Kemble handles the guitar side of the operation. He’s been teaching with Sera Schools for seven months and approaches it from a kid’s perspective, keeping in mind what they like and how they learn.

“My whole approach is just have fun and be at their level but at the same time giving them just enough to where it challenges them but they retain it,” Kemble said.

Not afraid to make his time with the class a complete educational experience, Kemble said he often includes elements of math and spelling into the lesson.

“I think we got a good thing going here and I’m interested to see where these kids go in a couple of years with these little lessons that they’re learning,” Kemble said.

Bora Basyilidiz is only 8, but he’s cool enough to like Queen and prefers the electric guitar to the acoustic. He plays piano, too, and said that being involved with Sera Schools has helped him continue to get better at guitar, as well as other things like good posture and stage performance.

“I want to go to Sera Schools next year,” Basyilidiz said.

It’s usually a good sign when any child says they want to go back to school and that attitude towards learning is what keeps Fay and Kemble going.

“I love music, so when I see other kids just having that same passion, you know, from the things I’ve been teaching them, that’s the goal,” Kemble said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2938 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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