“Sometimes, when I’m really happy, I can shoot sparkles out of my fingers!”
So recites Rhiannan Powell, excitedly, rehearsing a very funny scene from the satirical “A Very Potter Senior Year: the Musical,” in which she’s playing a version of Tom Riddle, the boy who grew up to be Lord Voldemort.
Who knew that He Who Must Not be Named could ever be so … sparkly?
And that, it turns out, is only the beginning.
Petaluma’s Phoenix Theatre has played many roles during its long history — opera house, movie theater, rock ‘n’ roll concert hall — but this weekend the venue plays a different part, as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“A Very Potter Musical,” produced and performed by the Cotati-based private music school Music to My Ears, opens tonight at the Phoenix, and organizers hope magic will happen.
“There is a wizard duel. There’s a flying car and a giant spider,” said Aja Gianola-Norris, founder and owner of Music to My Ears. “The wizards send their curses back and forth. Half of the curses are from the Harry Potter books, and half of them are nonsensical jokes.”
No doubt Larissa Lorenz is thrilled to grab the lead role in Puccini’s “Tosca,” presented this Thursday through April 1 by the Verismo Opera Company in Vallejo.
But the North Bay soprano has managed to carve another niche or two along the way – performing for the grade-school young and the senior residents home old.
“I essentially started cold-calling every retirement community I could find, asking if they had a piano and if they’re open to an opera performer,” Lorenz said by phone.
As it turns out, there was a need.
Music to My Ears owners, Aja and Dan, are featured in the article "Teaching kids to face the music". The article describes how they met and how MTME came to exist.— from The Press Democrat, June 21, 2013
“You have been amazing with the kids! I have no idea how you’ve done it! As a parent, it’s been a total YES! moment(s) for us. Tommy is constantly singing and dancing to Joseph. Every time we leave you he says, “that is so much fun. I love doing this, can’t wait to go back.” I love watching the enjoyment and confidence he has shown over the last 7 weeks! We can’t wait for Saturday! Thank you for providing the opportunity for our son to enjoy, learn about, and be a part of the performance world. We finally found that something for him. We hope he grows with your music school and always has a love for music and dance and performing. You and your team totally rock!”— from Christina C, parent of Summer Musical 2014 participant
Viola/Violin teacher, Bob Williams, in a newspaper photograph about the new Weill Concert Hall at Sonoma State University.— from The Press Democrat, January 9, 2012
Video of Barbara Norris’ student, Eden James (3 1/2 years old), playing at a recital— Music to My Ears student recital, March 2011
Our three sons have studied instrumental music at Music To My Ears since that school’s inception. We chose that school based on the strength of the recommendations from several music teachers and professionals in Sonoma County who had knowledge of Dan and Aja’s professional reputation. Our trust in their abilities has been well founded, as shown by our sons’ high level of continuing interest and musical achievement. Our oldest boy is now enrolled and studying music at the University of the Redlands, an achievement to which I attribute in large measure to the training he received at Music To My Ears.
Just as important as their own musical and teaching talents, Dan and Aja have demonstrated the ability to attract capable, like-minded teachers to staff the school, which has been fundamental to the successful formation and ongoing growth of Music To My Ears. I would not hesitate in recommending this school to any lovers of music who would wish to develop the heart to learn and excel.— Samuel Ely, Petaluma, CA
Scott Macdougall started playing piano seriously in the summer of 2008. While he had played around with different musical concepts over the years through recordings and collaborating with others, he wanted more out of his musical abilities. He had a basic understanding of the keyboard and how music worked, which allowed him to compose many beat based recordings and different styles and genres of music. He felt with a little time learning more about playing piano outside of the studio, he could enhance his own music and learn the basic fundamentals of music theory and piano technique. Well, enhance is an understatement......
Scott has shown amazing results over the past year at Music To My Ears working with his instructor Beau Flasher. He has gone from a beginner level of playing with simple melodies and chord progressions to an advanced level in a very short period of time. Scott has been able to combine his musical instincts with his ability to pick up material very quickly to become an excellent piano player. His instructor, whom Scott refers to as sensei, has this to say:
“Scott has become one of my best students in this past year. He is able to learn material at an accelerated rate which allows me to teach him very complicated progressions. One of the advantages of being able to absorb music at such a level, is that you can take on songs that might be out of your league and ‘level up’ much faster than with traditional methods. He has begun to compose his own material as well, which really separates him from a lot of other players. Scott has proven that with a strong work ethic and a passion for learning that you can accomplish anything you put your mind, and ear to.”
Scott has begun to delve into newer styles such as Blues and Progressive Stride, and is motivated to compose and record a lot of his own material. With one year of lessons under his belt, Scott is now beginning to jump back into the studio with some tricks up his sleeve. His goals remain to take on as much inspiring material as possible and continue to record and compose his own music as well. He has experimented with playing live performances at recitals and events in the area, and would like to keep that door open in the future.
As with many students of music and piano, there is no substitute for time spent on the instrument. The old adage “Practice makes perfect” might not yield flawless results right away, but with dedication and an inspired approach to learning, one can achieve a lot success. Scott is certainly an example of this early success playing piano, and he represents a small percentage of beginning musicians who are able to get as much out of learning to play an instrument as he has. Scott is an inspiration to many students jut starting out on an instrument and is a walking example of what someone can achieve in the musical realm.— June 2009
Squid Tamar-Mattis received 2009’s “Most improved musician” award at the Santa Rosa Preparatory Orchestra Spring concert. Squid is the principal trumpet of the Prep Orchestra and a student of Dan Gianola-Norris. For more information on the Santa Rosa Symphony’s youth orchestra program, check out: http://www.santarosasymphony.com//education.asp— June 2009
Following a successful audition, trumpeter Nate Gale has been accepted into the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra. Nate is a a student of Dan Gianola-Norris.
Lindsay Blue will be attending San Francisco State University as a music major beginning Fall 2008. Lindsay is a trumpet student of Dan Gianola-Norris.
Ryan Markey won the Casa Grande High School “Best Band Performer, J.V. Jazz Band 2008” award. Ryan is a student of Jeff Prinz. Congratulations and a fond farewell to trumpeter
Danielle Gilmore, who has graduated from Sonoma State University with a B.A. in music. Danielle will be attending graduate school at Hunter College in New York this fall (2008) as a music education student. Danielle is a familiar face around MTME, as a teacher, office worker, and as a student of Dan Gianola-Norris. She will be missed!
Tayla Nebesky isn’t always comfortable putting her feelings into words. But she can masterfully express emotions and convey great meaning to diverse audiences when she speaks through music.
Tayla has been playing the trumpet for the last five of her 15 years, after once trying her hand at the bugle. She has moved up through the orchestras to the Youth Orchestra. Her professionalism is such that she played with the Santa Rosa Symphony last month – one of the youngest substitute players in the orchestra’s history.
“I was really excited and I was surprised to be asked. I know the principal, Doug Morton, so that’s how I got my name in. I was kind of nervous, but (the other musicians) were really nice. My teacher was also playing trumpet next to me,” she says, noting that the unique honor was fun, and something she’d love to do again.
Tayla is home-schooled and takes courses at Santa Rosa Junior College, including jazz combo classes. While studying at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Summer Music Academy several years ago, Tayla was introduced to composing.
She began with a composition for voice and piano. More complex forays soon followed. While maintaining her commitment to academics and to piano practice in the morning and trumpet practice in the afternoon, Tayla made more time for composing.
“Right now I’m writing a piece for eight instruments: string quartets and woodwinds,” she says. “I compose at the piano, so if I get an idea while I’m practicing, I’ll write it down.”— from The Press Democrat, March 30, 2008
The Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra’s “Celebrate the Future” concert will showcase the winners of its third annual Concerto Competition and its first Composing Competition... Tayla Nebesky from Freestone, a sophomore at Orchard View Charter School, was fourth. The young people auditioned before a 3-judge panel of professional musicians in October. The contest was open to all 50 Youth Orchestra members, eight of which auditioned...— Press Release, The Santa Rosa Symphony, January 15, 2008