The Kennedy Piano Studio is highly active all year. During the school year, students participate in two studio recitals (Winter and Spring); studio piano parties where we perform for our peers and develop camaraderie in the studio; and MATFor’s (Music Appreciation and Theory Forums) where we play music games and learn about various elements of music and music history. Students also play duets and trios with partners each year for North DeKalb’s Ensemble Olympics, studio recitals and the Federation Festival, as well as concerti with the teacher. The student is also encouraged to share playing any other musical instruments at our recitals.
Other recitals we are able to participate in are the Mu Phi Epsilon Music Fraternity’s Spring Recital and the Atlanta Music Club Young Performers’ Recitals. We also participate in the National Federation of Music Clubs’ Festival non-competitive yearly auditions and the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). Students are also welcome to participate in competitive auditions if they desire, such as the North DeKalb Bach Competition and Sonata/Sonatina Competition, and Local Auditions.
For teen and adult students with busy schedules, we also offer lessons in a stress-free atmosphere with no recitals or competitions! You do not even need to worry about practicing!
Besides taking lessons during the summer, the Kennedy Piano Studio offers several fun Dynamic Music! Summer Camps in Piano; Theory and Composition; Ensemble; Discovery and Acting (no experience necessary); Musical Theatre; and Patriotic Camp! We also participate in the Dunwoody 4th of July Parade and decorate our own float!
A combination of music, movement, singing, acting, playing percussion instruments using some Dalcroze-Eurhythmics and Orff-Schulwerk is employed to instill a lifelong love of music in students. We use technology to enhance our learning and we also use the current “method” books on the market.
Music has always been my life starting as young as I can remember. There was always some kind of music being played on the “phonograph” in my house, whether it be classical music, Broadway music or the Beetles. Every time my mother would take me to visit my grandmother, I went into her living room so I could play the baby grand piano. I tried to make up songs on the piano as young as about 2 or 3 years old. In those days, piano teachers would only teach beginners starting at age 7, so after bugging my mother to learn how to play piano, she finally began teaching me with “color by note” at age 4.
I used to put on ‘shows’ with my friends and record them on cassette tapes, (which were a new invention after 8-track tapes)! Of course, I was always the star! Almost as soon as I finally began formal piano lessons with the piano teacher, I knew I would be a musician. At age 9, I asked my mother to tell me some of the best colleges in the U.S to study music. Of the three top colleges my mother named, one was Florida State University in Tallahassee. *I told her that is where I would go to school.
During high school, I was a member of the band and chorus. The many opportunities I had were trying out for and participating in the GA All-State Chorus; going to Europe for a summer with the American Youth Symphony and Chorus’s Goodwill Concerts; and acting in the Drama and Choral departments shows and musicals. I began teaching private piano lessons at my house.
I also became the song leader for The Temple Youth Group at my synagogue and song lead at conventions around the southeast for the South Eastern Federation of Temple Youth (SEFTY). I went to the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) camp in Warwick, New York for a summer and majored in song leading. I got my first taste of teaching as an assistant when I was in 10th grade at my synagogue’s Sunday School. I kept teaching Sunday School at area reform synagogues in Atlanta until I graduated from college and moved away.
In my junior year of high school, several of my closest friends were going into college for early advancement. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I, too, ended up graduating at the end of 11th grade. At age 16, I went to Mercer University in Atlanta, which was about two miles from my house. Therefore, I could live at home and drive to school every day (they did not have any dorms on the Atlanta campus in those days). I declared my major in ‘piano performance’ at Mercer and earned a Bachelor of Music degree. Normally, a performance degree takes 5 years to complete, but I took courses every summer and graduated after only 4 years.
*Now what to do? Not a lot of opportunities for classical concert pianists fresh out of college, so I decided to go to graduate school. Guess where? Yes! I went to visit FSU and after only about 2 hours of touring the place, I came out and told my mother that I was going to attend Florida State! (I certainly made quick decisions back then!) And fortunately, FSU has to this day, a fantastic School of Music! It was a ‘big’ school with the persona of a ‘small’ school, like Mercer in Atlanta. (Not only that, it had fraternities and sororities and a football team. Even though I was too old and too busy to join a sorority by that time, I did have a lot of fun going to the football games watching the Seminoles play!)
I had several options of what to major in at FSU: I could do theory and composition; music therapy, musicology… hmn. I decided on musicology, which is the study of music history. After a year as a musicology major, the light bulb in my head went off and told me that I would not have a lot of job opportunities with this degree, either. Originally, musicologists went on excavations to find original music transcriptions of Beethoven, Bach, or Brahms and the like. So, I switched to Music Education, since I knew I liked teaching music, and I could even make a living teaching music! Eureka!
What a great decision I made because I have the best “job” in the world. I do not have a “career” in which I have to go to “work” every day. Instead, I get to combine my two passions: playing and making music and teaching! I believe that teaching is a two-fold process: the teacher teaches the students but keeps learning herself at the same time. I get to learn how to tailor what I teach to each individual person’s needs. We learn from each other and that is an important aspect in being a life-long learner.
As time goes on, I become not only a “teacher”, but I also become a mentor, counselor, friend, mother, and confidant to my students and families. To me, a teacher is another parent and it is my job is to help nurture and mold this individual! Teaching any musical instrument involves not only the process or method, but also the rapport that develops between the student and teacher. That is why, I think, being a music or piano teacher, specifically, is better than any other type teacher. I get the opportunity to watch each student grow from year to year, not just for one school year, as is the case in a regular ‘school-type’ situations. I feel it is my responsibility not to just teach a student about music, but to help the whole person in their growth at any age or stage.
It’s always amazing for me to have a student come in not knowing anything about music or playing piano and as the years pass, being able to sit back and just watch how much they’ve grown; musically, emotionally, and physically. Adult students are also a joy to teach and watch how much they grow musically and emotionally. Every day is a different challenge and learning opportunity. I never say the word “boring” in the same sentence with “piano or music teacher”. However, I do say my life is “challenging”, “ever-changing”, “exciting”, “stimulating”, but definitely, never dull.
That is my goal for each student. I do not want anyone to feel “bored” while they’re taking lessons or at home “practicing”. I try not to use the word “practice”, but rather “play”. “How much did you [get to] play (piano) at home this week?” I want everyone to feel relaxed, safe and at ease so that they may be able to express themselves. We can be crazy at times and we can be serious at others, depending on the situation. But no matter what, it is always a lot of FUN!
As part of the fun, I also incorporate having students dance, play other instruments, sing, compose music, act, or anything else that strikes a creative nerve. I believe this helps in the process of developing musicality and a love for all types of music and helps you feel another ‘connection’ to the world and music. Some of the many items I use in my studio are rhythm instruments, balls, bean bags, scarves, a trampoline, and a computer lab, to name a few.
From my students who take private piano or guitar to group classes to Mommy and Me classes, everyone gets to sing, dance, etc.
My other goal is to have open communication between the parents, students, and myself. The keys to having a successful relationship is when the students and parents feel they can always let me know if they have any concerns about how our lessons are progressing as well as me being able to voice any concerns I have. I am very open to trying new ideas in order to help motivate a student before throwing the towel in, and that rarely, if ever, happens! When my students have studied with me for years, they all know they can openly discuss how they are feeling as it relates to their musical progression and anything else that is on their mind.
There is no ‘American Idol/Simon Cowell’ mentality when I teach. Any art form takes sensitivity and caring, not bullying. Musicians and artists are all putting their hearts into what they are doing, so I always try to support anyone’s efforts, not crush them. I believe anyone can learn how to play a musical instrument (or do anything they set their mind on) as long as they have a positive attitude and try. Aptitude does not necessarily need to be a roadblock. Proficiency will come to those who have positive determination in reaching for the stars!
I believe anyone can learn how to play a musical instrument (or do anything they set their mind on) as long as they have a positive attitude and try. My first goal is to foster a love of music and oneself through fundamental music skills.
Only a few students aspire to make a career out of music, and with that in mind, I try to teach the student how to interpret the language of music for their own enjoyment and/or the enjoyment of others. After being given the proper tools, I try to teach the student to think for himself or herself and rationalize concepts. If a student is able to independently practice and analyze a piece of music; harmonize a melody line; and improvise, he/she will have more self-confidence. This will lead to performing with other musicians in ensembles, as well as playing solo. Aptitude does not necessarily need to be a roadblock. Proficiency will come to those who have positive determination in reaching for the stars!
I want everyone to feel relaxed, safe and at ease so that they may be able to express themselves. We can be crazy at times and we can be serious at others, depending on the situation. But no matter what, it is always a lot of FUN! As part of the fun, I also incorporate having students dance, play other instruments, sing, compose music, act, or anything else that strikes a creative nerve. I believe this helps in the process of developing musicality and a love for all types of music and helps you feel another ‘connection’ to the world and music. Some of the many items I use in my studio are rhythm instruments, balls, bean bags, scarves, a trampoline, and a computer lab to compose music.
My second goal is to have open communication between the parents, students, and myself. The keys to having a successful relationship is when the students and parents feel they can always let me know if they have any concerns about how our lessons are progressing as well as me being able to voice any concerns I might have. When my students have studied with me for years, they all know they can openly discuss how they are feeling as it relates to their musical progression and anything else that is on their mind.
Leslie has been teaching private and group piano lessons and private guitar lessons in her home studio since 1996. She has also taught “Mommy and Me” classes. She also teaches general music classes. Since the pandemic, Leslie has been teaching online lessons.
Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Piano Performance from Mercer University, a Master of Music Education from Florida State University, and Orff-Schulwerk Certification levels I and II. She held a Florida teaching certificate for grades K-12. She is also certified from Musik Garten for Music Makers: At The Keyboard and Piano Marvel.
In high school, beginning in 1978, in addition to teaching private piano, Leslie has taught children in public and private schools and synagogues in Georgia and Florida. She has taught children ranging in age from birth up to 12th grade, including children with special needs. In the schools, besides teaching general music, she has staged musicals, directed choirs and Orff ensembles, taught guitar, ukulele, and recorder.
Leslie is an active member of the Music Teachers’ National Association, Georgia Music Teachers’ Association, the North Fulton Music Teachers’ Association, and the North DeKalb Music Teachers’ Association. She was the President of North DeKalb from 2005-2007. She is involved in the National Federation of Music clubs and has been Chairman of the North DeKalb Senior Club since 2000. She is currently the president of the Georgia Federation of Music Clubs (until 2022). She has also adjudicated for the National Federation of Music Clubs’ Spring Festivals and for the ACM’s Guild Examinations.
Leslie is listed in Who’s Who Among American Teachers for the year 2005 and 2006. To keep abreast in music pedagogy, Leslie attends workshops, seminars, and conventions with prominent composers and musicians.
Leslie and her husband, John, have two grown sons, named Albert and Lance.