June 30, 2015
New island music academy is one artist's 'divine inspiration'
is the fuel that drives an artist’s creative engines, the impetus to
spend the estimated 10,000 hours it takes to truly master a difficult
craft. While some artists tend to be more passionate about
themselves, the best artists understand that it is the work at hand
that is important and that inspiration is indeed the spark of the
By PETER PAPPALARDO
Such is the case with professional musician Jessie Taylor of Avon and
her vision for the Cape Hatteras Music Academy, which will begin
providing musical instruction for Hatteras Island youth in the fall.
Taylor’s motto is “What we are is God’s gift to us, what we become is
our gift to God.” She is quick to credit divine inspiration for
the new musical venture.
“My husband and I moved here in 2011. I was originally teaching Suzuki
violin group lessons, and sometime in March the idea of the academy
came to me. As soon as I thought about getting started, everything fell
into place, like a door opened, “she said, laughing. “I believe
in the Lord, and it was like an assignment from God, like He was
saying, ‘You’ve finally grown up enough, you’re finally at a point in
your life where you can give back, and the time is right.'”
Taylor explained that she and her husband, Patrick Donnelly, both
natives of Virginia Beach, had lived on the Outer Banks twice prior to
moving the third time, once in the summer of 2005 and again in the
winter of 2007. Taylor, like many young people who come to the
Outer Banks, had worked in the hospitality industry, but decided to
make a go of playing and teaching music full time.
Taylor plays music with her husband weekly at the Rodanthe Pier, and
each Sunday is the worship leader at A Mighty Wind United Methodist
Church in Kill Devil Hills, which meets at the First Flight Middle
School. There, Taylor chooses and plays contemporary Christian
praise music, accompanying herself on guitar and occasionally violin.
The transition from performing and offering private lessons to group
instruction offered challenges for Taylor, the first of which was to
procure curriculum for the academy. Classes demanded more structure
than a completely individualized, private format. It was then
that she began investigating several programs of study.
“Amidst my research for finding the best curriculum to offer, I was
excited to learn about different ways to teach music. I honestly
felt like I was going back to school during this research period,”
The basis of her instructional methods were developed by Zoltan Kodaly,
a Hungarian composer who developed an age-appropriate approach to
teaching young children, based upon what they are developmentally
capable of grasping. Akin to the “Do-Re-Mi” song from "The Sound
of Music," this instructional technique strives to create an atmosphere
similar to a child’s world of play and relies on easily learned folk
songs as a basis for instruction in violin, cello, guitar, ukulele, and
In particular, Taylor chose a violin curriculum offered by Mark
O’Connor, a fiddler known for his achievements in the bluegrass genre
who has also recorded with classical cello player Yoyo Ma in several
While the Suzuki method utilizes classical pieces and stresses
repetition, rote memory and playing “by ear,” O’Connor’s approach is
markedly different. He describes utilizing music of America as
the basis of instruction and has students begin with songs like
"Amazing Grace," "When the Saints Come Marching In," and other American
According to Taylor, the simple and compelling melodies make learning
the violin much more accessible, vitally important in mastering the
violin, arguably one of the most difficult stringed instrument to play
“The music is so easy to learn you could do it without music, but I
encourage learning to read at the same time so that the literacy is
there. With the Suzuki method, you don’t learn how to read, so
students who later might want to join an orchestra wouldn’t be able to
because they would lack the ability to read music,” Taylor said.
The Orff Method, named after Carl Orff, a German composer from the
early 20th century, is the main method for the music for babies
and toddlers, and music and games classes for children ages 2 through
6. Much like the Kodaly Method, this type of instruction combines
music, movement, drama, and speech that appeal to a child’s natural
love of play, and allows for improvisation of the music as well.
A visit to Taylor’s website shows one such class, with a small group of
youngsters bubbling and bouncing in dance to music from "The Nutcracker
Suite." By the end of the session, the children have absorbed the
same basic choreography one sees in professional productions with the
only “instruction,” the encouragement of the instructor and the innate
desire of young people to mimic what they see others say and do.
This, according to Taylor, is no accident.
“There is a huge emphasis on having fun in each class, while embracing
each child’s individuality and creativity. The classes for babies
through age 6 incorporate the use of hand-held instruments, a large
40-inch gathering drum, interactive puppets, visuals and repetitive
songs,” Tayor explained.
The ebullient Taylor learned music the traditional way, taking private
lessons from age 9 to about age 16 on violin. All the while, a love of
musical education has been simmering in Taylor’s blood. She
recalls her music teacher asking her to speak to the school board, busy
trying to save money by cutting the music program.
“I remember being in middle school in sixth or seventh grade, talking
to the school board and trying to explain why I loved orchestra so
much. Imagine me trying to convince them to save the program,” she
said, laughing again. “I said, ‘Please don’t take arts away, this
is what I’m good at!’”
According to Taylor, the deeply personal nature of musical instruction
is needed now more than ever to balance the increasingly strident
emphasis on standardized testing in many public schools. Like all good
teachers, she is excited for the opportunity to learn right along with
Classes are set up in 12-week semesters. The first semester runs
from Sept. 22 - Dec. 19. The second semester runs from Jan.
4 - March 26. At the end of each semester, there will be a
concert to show off what the children have been learning and rewards
are also handed out. In addition, there will be a two-day
workshop in May and a week long summer camp in July.
The cost for the classes is $150 per semester. Payment options
are available as well, and there will be informational meetings on July
1 and July 8 at Cape Hatteras Secondary School at 7 p.m.
Registration will follow both meetings.
More information and class schedules are posted on the Cape Hatteras Music Association website at www.capehatterasmusicacademy.com.