~ About Abby ~
I’ve played piano, clarinet, and guitar since grade school (piano since age 5). My formal training includes private and group lessons on piano, clarinet, and guitar, as well as several years of voice lessons as a teen and young adult. I studied music composition at Bard College in upstate New York, and graduated in 1991 with a BA in music composition. My music professors at Bard included Joan Tower, Daron Hagen, Benjamin Boretz, Leo "Wadada" Smith, and Luis Garcia-Renart. As an adult I have also studied accordion, bass guitar, drums, flute, banjo, and ukulele.
I began teaching music classes and private lessons when I moved to Seattle in 1992. From ‘92 - ‘96 I worked for Music Discovery, teaching preschool music classes as well as individual lessons for children and adults (ages 5 and up) on piano, clarinet, guitar, and flute.
Using the skills I gained through Music Discovery, I moved on in 1996 to teach out of my home, and built up a strong schedule of wonderful students. At this time I was also employed by a Seattle music store (The Trading Musician), where I learned a lot about musical equipment and instruments.
I have been giving music lessons in Portland since 2001 and currently teach five days a week at Trade Up Music (4701 SE Division Street). I am always happy to answer questions or give advice concerning the purchase of an instrument, accessory, or music book.
I am a performing and recording musician of my own songs and compositions, and also frequently contribute to friends’ projects. I have a full length CD out on Seattle’s Barsuk Records (“Abigail Grush - The Phantom Beat”) and a self-released album ("Through Being Mean"). You can see more information (and hear my latest album) at my website abigailgrush.com.
Philosophy and Teaching Style
I try to keep lessons fun, and use a holistic approach to teaching music, utilizing “teaching aids” that the students can touch and manipulate (such as flashcards with notes, music symbols, etc.), listening games, small rhythm instruments for tapping the beat, movement, and other activities. I try to tailor each lesson to the student's individual needs, rather than try to force everyone into the same method. Generally we will work out of a lesson book, and supplement the book with extra exercises and songs that the student picks. Attention is given to note reading, rhythm, ear-training, and composition.
I’m not the kind of teacher who simply shows a student where to put their fingers and that’s it. I focus a lot on theory*, because I think it is important for the student to understand the fundamentals of music, so that they can later apply what they’ve learned to new songs, communicate with other musicians, and easily learn new instruments. (Learning music is a lot like learning a language!) I also encourage all my students, regardless of age or experience, to compose their own music. In addition, we work on performance, and each spring have a big recital for friends and family, so everyone can show off what they've been working on.
I teach all age groups, levels, and most styles, but I feel my strength and experience lie in working with younger beginners (age 5 and up). But of course I am happy to work with students of any age!
*Many people become intimidated when they hear the term "music theory". But at the basic level, all this means is "the names of things", ie rhythms, note names, musical terms. At an advanced level, yes, "theory" can get complicated, but when I use that word I mean it in the most basic (and hopefully non-threatening) sense.
References are available upon request.