Located in the Cory Lake Professional Center on Cross Creek Blvd., Excel Music has been teaching children and adults private lessons in voice, piano, guitar, drums, strings, clarinet, recorder, flute, saxophone, and other musical instruments for 17 years.
Serving the communities of Wesley Chapel, New Tampa, Excel Music co-founders John and Sheri Thrasher cannot contain their delight when they talk about two exciting new programs — one that is available immediately and the other beginning next month (January 2024).
Royal Conservatory-trained and certified teacher Regnarene Brown has joined the faculty of 14 music teachers to instruct Royal Conservatory Piano.
“This is a method intended for more serious students,” Regnarene says. “There’s an adjudication process. They prepare and perform pieces for judges before they can move on to the next level. It’s for a student who might be interested in a career or pursuing music at a more serious level.”
John adds, “Typically, we start kids in piano at 5, but an adult can start Royal Conservatory if they want to.”
As excited as he is about the Royal Conservatory, John is equally thrilled about Excel’s other new program.
“We are officially starting a Keyboard Band Piano Jam class in January,” he says. “This class is for 7-10 year olds, typically beginners, but intermediate students would also enjoy it. From Day One, they’re learning pop songs, and each child gets their own part to play. There are four levels. It’s like gamified learning, like a karate class where once they master a level, they move up to the next level.”
The Keyboard Band students will learn the same skills taught in private lessons, but instead, will work with 4-5 other students in a small group setting. They will work on music reading, as well as chords, melodies and improvisation.
“Playing with other people, you feel inspired to try a little harder,” John says. “Even if your part is simple, it’s important. It matters. Quite often, kids worry that playing the piano will be too hard, and that at-home practice will feel more like homework, not something they’ll enjoy. This program is designed to eliminate that concern by establishing some quick wins for the students, so much so that after just a few lessons, each student will have the basic skills needed to play their favorite song. Every three to four months, they will perform at a concert — not a recital, but a concert— and/or they’ll do a professional YouTube music video. I have never been as excited for a class.”
John hopes to schedule the first Keyboard Band concert and video in Apr. 2024.
During the pandemic, Excel Music brought lessons online only, but since reopening to in-person lessons, has continued to offer students the convenience of virtual classes.
“We still have a fairly large number of students participating virtually,” he says. “It’s been a great fit. We’ve had students who have moved out of the state or even the country continue their private lessons with us. Many families return to their native countries during the summertime, and the students can continue their music lessons while away. That’s been a real benefit to kids during the three-month ‘summer slump,’ when many kids tend to slip backward (at school). Learning music is no different, so this has really helped.”
He adds, “Our focus is on education first. Many places that give lessons, particularly on multiple instruments and voice, are often retail facilities that also offer lessons. We’ve turned that model around. We do have some retail, but only in support of the individual lessons. These are accessories that students need to succeed and do well in their music lessons.”
With each class or curriculum designed for that particular student, regardless of the student’s skill level or style of music they like, everything can be accommodated in a private lesson, whether in person or online.
At Excel Music, all teachers are either university-trained (many with Master of Music degrees) or have a decade of study and performing experience. The Thrashers take pride in hiring not only the most qualified teachers but also some of the nicest.
“I want people who are there because they love to teach and have a real passion,” ays John. “People who get a thrill when they see the student’s eyes light up with understanding when they cross that threshold, and the look on their face says, ‘Oh, I got it. It’s an incredibly exciting moment — the thrill of sharing a student’s ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Student Sam Z says, “I like that my teacher encourages me to learn more and more music, and he gets me music that I want to learn.”
Upcoming to Excel Music is the ability to text the music school, do online enrollment, and have 24/7 access to information about lessons and answers to questions parents raise.
“Over the years, we’ve improved at providing not only a quality music education but also a fantastic experience for our students,” John says. “We’ve developed many systems that have streamlined and made the way we teach music more effective, as well as how we’ve used technology to improve our service and continue to use newer technologies.”
When not running their music school, John and Sheri, who live in Wesley Chapel, are lovers of the performing arts, traveling and pampering their two pet cats.
Excel Music is located at 10353 Cross Creek Blvd., Suite I. It is open Mon.- Thur., 2 p.m.-9 p.m., 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Fri., and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sat. It is closed on Sunday. For more info, call (813) 991-1177, or visit newtampamusicschool.com.