Seventeen years ago, when sales and marketing engineer John Kolbrich had a dream about a music school, it forever changed his life. His love of music led him to create a music school in his Orlando home. He built a total of three schools in the Orlando area and three years ago, when a friend was looking to sell her popular musical school in Westchase, John jumped at the opportunity to expand his reach into Tampa through the centrally-located busy music school on Countryway Boulevard. The then two year old school continued under John and his wife Marge’s new ownership and has been flourishing ever since, with over 250 students. In January 2017, John and his wife purchased a 5th Music school from a former teacher in Oviedo, making them the largest privately owned music school chain in Florida.
At Westchase Music School, teachers are experts in their craft with B.A., M.A. and/or M.M. Degrees in Music Performance and Music Education, with years of experience teaching music lessons. Some also work for the Hillsborough and Pinellas county public and private school systems. Others are professional band musicians or performers with symphonies and orchestras.
What each of the 15 teachers have in common is their love of sharing a passion for music with students from ages 4 to adult. Age is definitely not a factor at Westchase Music School. Older students and retirees regularly take lessons at the school.
For 4 year olds, Westchase Music School offers piano and ukulele, for 6 to 7 year olds, guitar, drums, voice, and violin and once they are 8 and have taken lessons before with the school, children can try more technically difficult instruments like viola, cello, saxophone, and clarinet.
“We offer one on one private lessons once a week for 30 to 60 minutes,” said Avril Sanjuanelo, school director. “No matter what level you are at or what genre you are into, we can personalize your lessons for you. We offer lessons in any instrument that you are interested in – from piano, guitar, drums, woodwinds, brass instruments, cello to voice and music composition. The day and time the student picks will be the same time each week with the same teacher. It’s not just a following-the-book program – we like to personalize the lessons to your liking.”
A computer lab with interactive age-appropriate music software allows students to apply learn theory in addition to what was taught to them in the lesson.
“No matter the length of your lesson, we also include an optional, additional 15 minutes in our music technology lab. It helps a lot of our students who are trying to understand music theory, sight reading, and note recognition. Those programs start at elementary level and go all the way up to college level music theory.”
As part of the school’s family safety plan, each instructor is thoroughly background checked and each room has glass doors and video cameras that can be viewed from the waiting area. Students perform regularly in the waiting area in front of parents, and other students after their lesson and during a once a month open mic session on Saturday morning. This gives them a mini-venue to work the bugs out of their performance.
Westchase Music School features a patented “Music Ladder System” allowing students to earn rewards – wristbands and trophies of increasing size – for meeting set goals by passing individual tests every 45-60 days. A fun Summer Camp program runs in June and July.
The school also offers short term coaching and preparation for advanced students auditioning for All State, All County, or musical theatre high school or college level auditions. Several students have won generous college scholarships in oboe, bassoon, and tuba – key instruments in an orchestra.
With instruction available year-round, Westchase Music School hosts recitals each May and December at Core Church that showcase students’ hard work. Parents, grandparents, family and friends love to see their student perform.
From learning to read and compose music to playing musical instruments or needing assistance for auditions, the teachers at Westchase Music School are there to help students reach their music goals.
On instructor Ms. Kelsey’s Halloween birthday, the school celebrates with a costumed open mic for students to play games, and practice performing for the upcoming December recital in front of other students and teachers. During the month of October, new students can also win special prizes for registering for lessons.
“I love seeing the difference that music does in the life of a child. I see the student’s self-confidence come up. On the first day of lessons, the students may be too nervous to even play a key or make a mistake on the piano and then a month or two later, they are out in our lobby in our performance corner playing the last song in their book. They are so proud of themselves getting as far as they have,” she said. “Seeing how much music makes a difference s their lives is so important to me. I love being in this environment. Our teachers are always really excited because this isn’t just a job, it’s their passion.”
The Westchase Music School is located at 11301 Countryway Boulevard. Hours are Monday through Friday, 1pm to 9pm and Saturday, 9am to 3pm. For more information, visit westchasemusicschool.com or on Facebook.