When Susan Pascale moved to South Pasadena as a single mother, she had no idea her passion for music would turn into such a successful enterprise.
The award-winning and nationally acclaimed Pascale Music Institute teaches kids as young as three years-old to play the violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar and piano.
Pascale developed what is known as the Pascale Method, a systematic approach that utilizes detailed directions, fun exercises, rapid progress, and a reward program to motivate the students.
“The Pascale Method is Galamian-based, designed for kids as young as four years-old and is codified into two books distributed by Alfred Music Publishing,” Pascale said. “Galamian is still the predominant system used at the Julliard School today. I am proud to say graduates of my program have attended this school as well as other colleges, including UCLA, Carnegie Mellon and Colburn.”
The Institute teaches the importance of music reading, which allows students to be able to perform for family and friends within 12 weeks and advance to the next level of instructions.
Four members of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra—Michael Larco, Oscar Meza, Mitch Newman and Tao Ni—teach their students how to play the violin, viola, cello, and bass at the Institute. Each student is matched with an expert teacher who is trained in the Pascale Method.
But kids attending the programs get more than just music lessons.
“It is not only about playing music well, but what you learn in the process about working hard, getting along with others and maintaining a good attitude,” said Pascale, founder and music director.
Cade Okohira is a former South Pasadena student who is using the interpersonal and disciplinary skills he learned at Pascale Music while studying psychobiology at UCLA. He participated in the 2010 Rose Parade and performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and on TV’s “America’s Got Talent” as part of the Pascale Music Institute.
“The program at Pascale Music introduced Cade to his lifelong passion of music and enriched all of our lives with experiences we never would have had,” said his father, Mark.
Pascale said she believes every child can achieve greatness. “If you can do something, do it at a higher level,” she said. “I teach the children how to play properly and encourage them along the way with a notebook showing their progress. I make it fun while pushing them to be their best.”
Though most of her students are South Pasadena residents, Pascale said some kids and parents travel from all over the San Gabriel Valley to take private lessons or group classes. There are summer programs and boot camps as well.
“We are the only 12-and-under youth orchestra in Los Angeles,” she said.
Once students develop their skills, they can participate in one of the Institute’s three orchestras: The Training Orchestra, the Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra (LACO), and the Los Angeles Children’s Chamber Orchestra (LACCO). The LACO and the LACCO orchestras have won several awards in regional and national performances, including three awards at the prestigious invitation-only festival at Carnegie Hall.
Little did Pascale know she would be part of a performance at Carnegie Hall when she moved in 2001 to South Pasadena from New York with her two young children. Her daughter, Ariana, was eight at the time and needed to play the violin with other children to be successful. This led Pascale to volunteer free violin lessons before the school district hired her to create a music program for Huntington Middle School.
“I got involved with the Middle School where there had not been an orchestra since the 1940s,” she said.
The following spring, Pascale took her 60-member orchestra along with 150 parents and relatives to New York City to see the children perform at Carnegie Hall. Now, every four years, Pascale’s students, ages 6-13, get the privilege of performing in the famous concert hall.
This summer, the institute was included in an American Family Insurance commercial directed by Todd Field. “What he captured is how I love to work with the kids,” she said. “That’s what the institute is all about: teaching music and seeing the change in my students.”
Pascale said seeing the emotional and social improvement in her students is as satisfying as their progress with an instrument.
“We have all kinds of students, from kids with disabilities to more gifted kids,” said Pascale. “I teach every kid the same way so each one can have a similar experience.”
Pascale also encourages her older students to become mentors for the new and young children entering the program.
“I have high standards, and they have to meet them, so it teaches them to push themselves in a positive way,” she said. “When people start with me and my program, they stay because it is fun,” she said.
Pascale Music Institute is located at 1401 Mission St., Suite 104 in South Pasadena and can be reached at (626) 403-4611. Its website is http://pascalemusic.com.
The Pascale Music Institute Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 9.21.18. Support Local Business.