Music is a universal language which everyone speaks. We hum or sing at odd times; sway, tap our foot, or swing a leg when a melody begins. We all wish we were musically talented and often regret not sticking with those piano lessons in childhood. Ms. Mariah’s Music, a new business at 505 Orange Avenue, offers an opportunity for people of any age, even three-year old children, to pursue a love of music.
Taking lessons at any age can result in a pleasurable hobby or a profession, but Mariah Gillespie, owner of Ms. Mariah’s Music, quotes research in her brochure touting early instruction as beneficial for brain development: “Playing music has more positive impact on the brain than any other human activity.” She continues with, “Exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children in the areas responsible for language development, sound, reading skill, and speech perception.”
Her business is designed to accommodate a range of ages and lesson preferences. Whether you are 3 or 70 years old, whether you prefer going to her studio, lessons at home, or virtual lessons, the staff of five teachers can fill your needs. You also have a choice of lesson length: 30 minutes, 45, or 60 minutes. Two recitals each year, one in June and one in December, showcase the students’ work and give them an opportunity to perform in front of an audience.
Gillespie, a Michigan native, is a three-year resident of Coronado and has recently fulfilled a life-long goal of having her own studio. Another goal is creating a positive stereo type for those taking piano lessons. She wants her students “to think of it as a fun activity, a social activity. The monthly (before Covid) pizza parties were created to bring the kids together. The first thing they noticed was that so many other kids took piano too. We play musical games, musical chairs, rhythm games, form a rhythm circle. They played for each other and we had some pizza…. It was a fun afternoon of music and pizza.”
During this period of sequestration, Gillespie is grateful that her lessons can be done online. Covid “really made me reevaluate how I spend my time because I’m an arts commissioner, an active Rotarian, teach music, have my teachers, my business. Without all the meetings, the reports, the filing of this and that, all I was doing was teaching and playing, and my heart was so happy. It really made me realize I should spend my time in this life doing what I love.”
Because of the virtual lessons, Ms. Mariah’s Music has been flourishing during this time when many activities have been scaled back, recently reaching 101 students. Gillespie teaches only at the studio, so if someone prefers the teacher go to the home, one of the other teachers provides the lesson. She likes to teach the youngest students, the three to five group, usually with a 15-minute lesson. ”With them you can be imaginative. You can sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and sprinkle star dust.” She enjoys seeing the multiple ways kids learn and prodding them to use their talents.
Since 2017, some of her students have gone to State for the Certificate of Merit evaluation where they are graded. The students play three songs for a professor of music. They receive scores on piano performance, ear training, sight-reading, music theory and technique. All 36 of her students who have enrolled in the music study program and have gone to State have received their Certificate of Merit with excellent scores.
The second year of participation, all the kids wanted to do honors which meant “they had to memorize their songs and do higher level songs. They had to get a 90% on their theory test. The motivation is for them to do well.” In 2020, 10 students completed the Certificate of Merit (CM), eight with honors. Not all of the students choose to participate in the honors program, “but all students of mine who applied for honors received it every year.” Performing for CM “was a fantastic experience. Some of them messed up, some of them were nervous, but every year they learn.”
Gillespie, the youngest of three, went to the University of Michigan and studied music, then got her Masters in Sydney, Australia. She chooses Mozart’s sonatas for her own enjoyment. “I could listen to those all day.”
She started playing the piano when she was five and the harp at 10, always practicing a lot since she was drawn to the music. “My great-great Aunt Gladys was a concert pianist who also loved teaching. She’s sort of my inspiration. My Granddaddy Rob was a jazz pianist, so he gave me my first lesson when I was a baby, so everyone in my family is musical.”
Ms. Mariah’s recital this year was virtual. At each recital, she serves her Recital Punch, made with a mixture of Vernor’s, (like ginger ale), and a sorbet, either orange or lime, a throw-back to Aunt Gladys who served it for her recitals. Gillespie’s mom sent her the family crystal punch bowl used in all those recitals. Her students enjoy mixing the punch and know the tradition of serving it for the recitals.
“My goal is to impact as many people as possible with music education, children and adults. I want to impact arts education in Coronado. I love my community. I want this to be the house where people come to make music in Coronado. I want parents to want to come. I want kids to want to come.”
After only a few years in Coronado, Gillespie has made her mark in the art circles. She works closely with the Coronado School Foundation and presented a benefit concert in December on their behalf. Last summer she taught a summer enrichment class with them, and she sponsors their biggest fund raiser, Coronado’s Talent. “As Arts Education Commissioner with the Cultural Arts Commission, I created the live music calendar on coronadoarts.com and also was the first to celebrate and plan arts education week in Coronado.”
For a personal goal, she wants to perform more, noting that she was the closer for the library piano series. Getting her large harp to Coronado from Michigan, so she can add that to her repertoire is a side goal. Gillespie’s enthusiasm for music and the Coronado community is apparent when she talks about her three years as a resident. Her involvement in the community is evidence that she is sincere in her commitment to giving back to a town she has grown to love.
For more information, contact msmariahsmusic.com or call 619-866-5638.