When I met my husband nearly 14 years ago, I knew almost immediately that he was “the one.” Yes, cliche, I know. But it wasn’t exactly love at first sight— more like love at first conversation. Once we started talking, we never stopped. We spent the next nine years traveling the world working together, living together, spending every moment together. His interests became my interests, and mine his. His world merged with mine to a point where he became the voice in my head.
He also became the soundtrack in my head.
My husband will sit at the piano for hours on end, either memorizing Beethoven sonatas or pounding out a raucous tune inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis. Whether I am cooking or cleaning, exercising or reading, piano music resonates through my mind and body. His playing affects my mood. A slow, quiet etude can render me melancholy and pensive. I often feel like a character in a film, an original score following me around while I dust the furniture.
When we decided to have kids it was a forgone conclusion that our offspring would one day learn piano. Now our firstborn is five and I not only enrolled her in piano lessons, I found her a music community at Diventi Music Conservatory and Performance Center.
After researching piano pedagogy around the world, my husband and I decided that a group approach would be perfectly suited to our daughter, but we didn’t think we would find anything like that nearby. I’d never heard of group piano lessons.
Dr. William Brooke, founder and director of Diventi, has done a bit of his own research into the pedagogy of music — he holds a masters in vocal pedagogy and a doctorate in vocal performance. Combined with a business background of finance, investment banking and real estate development, Dr. Brooke has cultivated a skill set that helped him create the perfect job for himself. We reap the benefits of his drive and vision.
Once a week my daughter and I make our way to the Diventi storefront on Cornwall Avenue in the heart of Bellingham’s business district. Behind the floor-to-ceiling glass sit three grand pianos in front of a vibrant green wall. The center of the room is a wide expanse of carpet, perfect for energetic kids to play music-themed learning games.
Leona Foster, her teacher, meets students and parents at the door, and we chat about our week of practicing as we ready ourselves for the class ahead. What follows is an hour of alternating between tandem practice on the pianos and lively games on the carpet. The mood is light, fun and feels more like playtime than piano lesson. But after six weeks my daughter is confident and comfortable at the piano. She knows her finger numbers, she independently plays a few songs and sings along. She can clap out the value of different notes. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that she likes it. I don’t have to drag her out of the house for piano lessons with Leona. She happily skips from the car to Diventi’s front door.
We enrolled at Diventi because of the group aspect and it has been profoundly successful for our daughter. As Dr. Brooke explained, there are many reasons for using a group approach to piano instruction for kids, paramount being:
- Teaching in a group setting makes piano more approachable and affordable. One hour-long lesson of music-making and game-playing with other kids her age is $15. The lesson takes place in a big, open room with well-maintained pianos. The location is easy to get to and parking is a breeze.
There are countless group games and activities that are more interesting and engaging than a solo endeavor. For my daughter, the choice between a piano lesson with one grownup or a piano lesson with a grownup and other kids is an easy one — more kids is more fun.
- Positive peer encouragement is inherent in group lessons. With other kids around there is more motivation to prepare for the lesson and practice, whether to show off your piano prowess or just be a team player.
Diventi Music Conservatory and Performance Center is exactly what the name indicates — a school for voice and piano instruction, as well as a place to perform and enjoy performances. But Dr. Brooke, with the help of resident instructors Leona and Amy Black, has also created a program-driven community resource. He emphasizes that everyone is welcome. Currently, there are students enrolled from four years up to 70-something, and every age group in between. There are private and group lessons as well as a diverse, flexible mix of summer programs that will be offered this year that will culminate in the 1st Annual Summer Gala Music Concert on August 18. This event will showcase the summer students, competition winners and Diventi Coro summer choir. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.
And while instruction is paramount at Diventi, the accessibility of resources and opportunities for performance are what sets it apart from other music schools. Dr. Brooke explained that the name Diventi comes from the Italian “diventare,” which means “to become.” Just as all students of music are constantly learning to use new tools, growing as performers and becoming their best musical selves, Diventi Music Conservatory and Performance Center will constantly strive to be a community resource for music lovers in Bellingham and across Whatcom County.