New teachers! Jenn Amell, Guitar and Piano

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Meet Jenn Amell. Jenn teaches guitar and piano to beginner and intermediate students. Her guitar focus is on pop, rock, and punk. On piano, Jenn specializes in teaching classical, but also loves working with pop music and show tunes. An excellent teacher for kids, she can bring a beginner through basic piano technique, introducing them to classical fundamentals. Kids who have an interest in playing pop, rock, or punk can explore chord progressions, strumming patterns, finger plucking, and more. Jenn also teaches adults who are at the beginner to intermediate level, offering instruction for playing pop music, as well as classical.

Read more about Jenn in her bio and the interview below:

I am a piano/guitar teacher. For the last fourteen years, I have been playing piano, as well as guitar for the past nine. Music is a chord struck deep in the heart, and it is a special passion of mine to pass on the skills necessary to experience such a visceral medium. Playing an instrument is one of the greatest meditative practices. On top of that, it stirs the brain and body into healthy action, allowing for better coordination and muscle memory.

Some of my best experiences have come from playing music, whether in a room full of friends singing and banging on drums, or alone strumming on the guitar. I have been fortunate enough to work with some great musicians in the Main Line and Philly areas including Nicholas Brower of Good Shirt Productions and fellow Philly Music Lessons teacher, Jennifer Pague, of Vita and the Woolf. Additionally, I also have an affinity for punk music and have put together a small lo-fi EP (Distant Milk) of ambient punk for my project, ‘Future Seer’.

Via all these good musical experiences, I have developed a teaching strategy that focuses on equal parts theory and improvisation. I mostly teach piano in a classical style, but would love to work with those who want to play pop or show tunes. As for guitar, my experience lies in rock, pop, and punk music, with a strong emphasis on strumming patterns and chord progressions. I accept students of any age from beginner to intermediate levels.

When did you begin playing piano/guitar, and why?:
I began playing piano at age eleven under the tutelage of Janet Ables. My mother inherited an upright player piano from her father and I can remember sitting at its keys and plunking out Chopsticks or The Spinning Song. When I showed an affinity for the piano, my mother decided to get me lessons, which continued throughout middle school and high school. As for guitar, I was first introduced at age fifteen by my church’s youth group, the leader of which taught me some chords and let me play on the worship team. I think I gravitated toward piano and guitar because of the therapy it offered. Playing either instrument calmed me then and continues to do the same now.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
Music has always been a kinetic, visceral experience for me. It makes me happy, and because of that, it is a compulsion— in the best way. So, I’d say my personal goals involve playing for my own enjoyment and passing on any knowledge I’ve gained to others who want to experience that same happiness and compulsion.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I can definitely remember times when the piano or guitar mystified me. How did they work? How could others make them sound so beautiful? I’m sure the same feeling came from learning a song on the piano, but I specifically remember learning my first chord (G) on the guitar. I had a feeling like, “Oh, so that’s how it’s done!”. Although the mechanics of playing either instrument become more knowable, music itself still holds a very exciting mystery.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
My mom and I often talk about the symbiosis between all the artistic mediums. I love literature (having studied it in university) and have found many striking similarities between music and writing. One particular passage really inspired to me from Anne-Marie Macdonald’s novel, Fall On Your Knees. In the scene, she is describing an opera singer: 

“It’s nothing to do with the words, which are in a foreign language, or the story, which most people don’t know. It’s because a real and beautiful voice delicately rends the chest, discovers the heart, and holds it beating against a stainless edge until you long to be pierced utterly. For the voice is everything you do not remember. Everything you should not be able to live without, and yet, tragically, do.”

I also love Brian Eno, he’s full of good advice.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Oh, I have them all the time! Music is supposed to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I guess completing my EP for Future Seer was my biggest musical achievement. It was super fun and I hope to do another one soon. I am also so happy to be in any way involved with Vita and the Woolf. They’re a great local Philly band reaching for high heights.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
I love teaching children, especially when they put two musical concepts together and finally understand them. Their smiles are genuine and you know that something unlocked in their brains.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
My best advice is twofold:
1. Be patient.
2. Practice as much as you can.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
Distant Milk, Future Seer (2015) – solo project including piano, synth, guitar, vocals and audio production.

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