|Volume 10, Issue 9||
|Hoffman illustrates his points with a quick riff on the piano in his office|
Joseph Hoffman started life with a love for music, taking his first piano lessons at age six. He grew up in Texas, and then went to Brigham Young University to study conducting. But an elective or two set him on a different path. “I took classes in child development and education, and discovered that I was fascinated with how kids learn. I found it so rewarding to help kids learn these really complex and intricate skills.” So he began to study the different methods that have been developed to teach music to children.
After receiving his Master's Degree in Music in 2005, Mr. Hoffman was appointed to the music faculty of BYU where he taught Music Theory and conducted the University Chorale. In May 2007, Mr. Hoffman left his studio of over 40 students in Provo, Utah to make a new home for his family (consisting of wife Kelly and sons Isaac and Eli) in Portland. “We had taken a road trip to the Oregon coast through Portland, and when it came time to leave Utah, we recalled that it had everything we wanted. My wife grew up on the east coast and she wanted to be near an ocean. We both wanted somewhere with a lively cultural scene, and where we could enjoy outdoor activities.”
The main focus at the Hoffman Academy is to make sure that every student gets the most possible out of his or her music education. If a student really wants to get serious and devote their energy to it, the school will be there to meet their needs. If a child just wants to have some fun with music, the school will let them explore the types of music they are interested in.
|A student rehearses "Come As You Are" by Nirvana at a guitar summer camp|
He says, “We expect that most of our students are not going to become professional musicians, but we want to teach in such a way that whatever they choose to do for a career, they will have a fine talent for music that can bring them fulfillment and enjoyment for a lifetime. Our goal is to provide the quality of teaching necessary that a student could go on professionally if they choose.”
Hoffman attributes his success to his innovative approach to music-teaching methods. “Basically, I tried to take the best, most effective tools from any method I could learn about and combine them into one integrated program. The results have been wonderful! Parents often comment about how they’re impressed that a program that is so child-friendly in its teaching methods can also be so rigorous and produce such fast progress.”
Another method that the school uses that’s a little different from most is their approach to playing as a group. During each term, the students, whether they’re in Private, Partner, or Team lessons, attend “Come Together” sessions where they all play together in a large room with many pianos. The purpose is to instill confidence.
Hoffman explains, “We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to learn to be comfortable performing in front of peers. I know so many adults who would like to play, but they are terrified of performing in public. Perhaps they had a negative performance experience in childhood. Our students perform with confidence, poise, and don't struggle too much with nerves because they get regular performance opportunities. Every six lessons, they get a group class where they perform for a small group of peers and receive additional training in music theory and also get a chance to play a new song in an ensemble setting. Ensemble playing is a skill that sometimes gets overlooked in private lessons, but a very important skill in the world of music.”
|Anne Denis works with a piano student|
In addition to Mr. Hoffman, there are nine other teachers who work at the Academy. He explains that for most people, music teaching can’t be a full-time occupation because it’s usually done in the after-school hours, so teachers need to work in several places and at other jobs to make ends meet.
Most of his teachers also perform, some of them together. Hoffman says, “Some play in rock groups around Portland, some give classical concerts. Anne Denis went to France this summer, to study piano for three weeks with a world-renowned piano teacher and expert on the music of Ravel and Debussy.”
They bring a range of musical interests and styles so that the Academy can match a child’s interest to a teacher who can work with them. Jazz, pop and rock are commonly taught along with various classical styles. They have teachers who specialize in piano, guitar, voice, and Pre-K music.
Most of their students enroll in private lessons, For beginners, there are group lessons—Piano Teams—or Partner Lessons where two students work with one teacher for the session. Private lessons are best for the student who is “ready and eager to advance his or her skills on the piano at a more focused and rapid pace.”
They also offer the flexibility of Coaching Sessions for students whose schedules make it difficult to attend weekly classes. Hoffman mentioned one piano student who was also playing football, and used the Coaching option to take lessons at various times to fit around his practice and game schedule. Evaluation Lessons allow beginning students to “try out” a teacher, and also for a teacher to get a sense of the student’s level and interests.
|Rehearsing "Wavin' Flag" from the summer olympics in the group piano room during Piano Band Camp|
Several summer programs have just finished, including Kung Fu Piano, “a summer camp which is fun, interactive, and designed to get kids excited about piano, while teaching them several new songs to play, and while learning about reading notes and rhythms,” Hoffman notes. “We also had a new summer camp this summer called Piano Band Camp where we taught more-experienced students how to play popular songs of today. For example, this year, we had a camp playing "What Makes you Beautiful" by One Direction, "Without You" by David Guetta/Usher, and others. On the last day, one of our teachers who plays drums came in with his drum set and we rocked out together!”
They have students ranging in age from pre-school to high school, and a handful of adults. They want to expand their adult program, so don’t be shy if now is the right time for you to finally get into, or back to, your musical education! They will be happy to find a teacher and a schedule that will work.
|Students perform at a Holiday Recital at Treehouse Hall|
There are several performance opportunities for all students throughout the year, including recitals that are open to the public, and visits to senior centers and other locations where the young musicians receive appreciation for their efforts. In the spring, they have a Composers’ Showcase where students can play their own compositions. They hold a Holiday Benefit Concert just before Christmas where their teachers perform. We’ll be sure to announce that in the News.
This past year the Academy had two students chosen as the winner in their division at local piano festival competitions—Classical Festival and Romantic Festival—hosted by Oregon Music Teachers Association.
Jennifer Epstein is the Business Manager, and Dalaine Bowen is the Office Manager. Hoffman explains, “I like to focus mostly on the teaching side of things, preparing curriculum, training teachers, teaching students. Jennifer handles all communication and manages our website and registration system. She also helps make sure our procedures and policies run smoothly. Dalaine does billing, registration, and scheduling, and answers phones and greets visitors. Both are part-time jobs, but very important!!”
The new facility, which just opened in August, is working out great. Each studio is painted with saturated and interesting colors with modern art prints on the walls. Each has a full complement of teaching materials along with a piano or a high-quality electronic keyboard. It doesn’t have the feel of a childish space, rather one that respects and elevates the students’ appreciation of art and their musical endeavors.
They joined the Cedar Mill Business Association a couple of years ago, and appreciate the community outreach opportunities such as the Farmers’ Market and Park Concert booths. They advertise in Metro Parent, send out flyers to local schools, and use their Facebook page and website for marketing.
In addition to thorough information on class offerings, costs, and schedules, the website has suggestions for additional student resources, and a growing collection of video presentations.
This fall they anticipate having over 200 students enrolled. Registration is still open for the fall term, and they’re willing to work with late registrants to help them catch up. They invite anyone interested in learning more about their programs to an Open House on Friday, September 14, 10 am-2 pm at the Academy, 12660 NW Cornell Road. They are in the north end of the building between the portrait studio and the resale shop. Call 503-336-3121 or visit the website HoffmanAcademy.com for more information.
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PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291