Music to the Ears

Rebecca Carr
Photos by Kamala Kirk and KatSnaps Photography

A classically trained musician with years of education and teaching experience, Rebecca Carr started out as a music teacher for the Pasadena Unified School District. While teaching, she taught private lessons at her house before eventually opening Encore Music & Performing Arts in Pasadena in 2017. After the success of her first location, Carr wanted to branch out to the San Marino community, so she opened a second location on Huntington Drive this past March.

“Since I was young, I always knew that I wanted to be a music teacher,” said Carr. “After graduating from Wichita State University where I was a Samuel Ramey Opera Fellow, I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 so that I could be in an arts community. While I was employed by the school district, I worked with a lot of special needs and emotionally disturbed kids. I found that in the private sector, there was a high demand for teachers that could accommodate special needs and young children, as well as teach a high level of musicality through a play-based approach, so I started my own private practice at home which eventually turned into something more. When opening my second Encore location, I partnered with The Family Room in San Marino to develop and lead their early childhood music program.”

Encore offers private and group lessons for children, teens and adults. Private lessons are offered in piano, voice, violin, guitar, drums and ukulele, while available group classes include piano, ukulele, piano and guitar for younger teens. Carr encourages students under the age of four to attend group classes at The Family Room, then after they’ve built a solid foundation, they can enroll in lessons at either Encore location.

“When you’re really young, sometimes that group setting is what you need,” Carr pointed out. “You can do a lot of singing, movement, drums and keyboards. With our group classes, we’ll typically have three to four kids at most. In the summer, we do rock bands in addition to their private lesson, and put them together with other kids so they can learn something different and collaborate with other people. It makes it more interesting and gives them a new experience.”

Lessons range from 30 minutes to an hour, and for those that are curious or on the fence about signing up, Encore offers $10 lessons twice a year in September and January so that people can try their different offerings out. They are also offering a back-to-school special of 20 percent off September music lessons. In December and May, Encore hosts recitals for its students in at the South Pasadena Masonic Lodge, where Carr is the pianist. She is currently working on booking some open mic nights at local businesses and senior home recitals as well.

“Recitals are optional — some of our kids want to collaborate with everyone while others don’t want to do it at first, but as soon as they do, they realize it’s great and they want to do it again,” Carr pointed out. “Recitals help keep students motivated and provide a different way for them to learn and apply their musical knowledge. It gives them a sense of purpose, and when they have purpose they’re motivated to practice.”

Another thing that Carr takes great pride in is her staff — many of whom are professional musicians or teachers. 

“After I interview potential teachers, the next thing I do is watch them teach a lesson,” she explained. “A person can have all of the qualifications on paper, but I need to know if they can really engage students and impart knowledge effectively. I’m really vested in finding people who can engage kids, as well as people of all ages. I love that now I can train teachers to effectively go and work with the students so that I can reach even more kids. That’s what’s most exciting to me.”

Carr and her staff make sure to utilize a combination of teaching styles to engage students and make learning fun.

“There’s a teaching style that is very old school and strict, and there’s a teaching style that is more fun-focused but it doesn’t provide a foundation,” she explained. “When I started this school, I wanted to provide something that was a mixture of both—fun and enjoyable, but you’re also learning. If you have a strong foundation, you can do anything.”

The lobby also has a camera system so that parents who stick around can watch what their kids are doing. There is also a toy box for little kids to play with while they wait for their older siblings to finish their lessons, as well as an assortment of books for reading. One of the things that parents love about bringing their children to Encore is the sense of community and friendships they form as a result of their kids taking lessons.

“I’m originally from Atlanta and the friendly vibes of the town here remind me of back home,” said Carr. “Parents and students like the sense of community and they all know or recommend each other to come here. After I opened my second location, some of my students from the Pasadena school came here to visit, and a bunch of our new students were from families that they knew through church or school—everyone’s connected in some way, shape or form. All the recitals are so much fun because the parents schedule lunches together and go out in these big groups, and the kids and parents hang out with each other. It’s a wonderful sense of community.”

Encore Music & Performing Arts is located at 2324 Huntington Dr. in San Marino. It is open Monday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon (for preschoolers and home school), Wed. – Fri. from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (626) 800-5868 or visit encorepasadena.com

Encore Music & Performing Arts Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 9.6.19. Support Local Business.

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