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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 2 months ago

Business provides extracurricular music, arts classes at West Orange-area schools

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Winter Garden resident Joanna Crews’ business, Orlando Premier Music Instruction, offers music and arts classes at local schools.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

For many students, music and performing arts are integral parts of their day-to-day studies and extracurricular activities.

And for Winter Garden resident Joanna Crews, fostering and nurturing children’s passion for the arts is one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s why she founded Orlando Premier Music Instruction, her music instruction business.

Crews brings music lessons to children right in their own homes, but she also branches out into offering after-school music and musical theater classes at Whispering Oak, SunRidge and Keene’s Crossing elementary schools, as well as at Horizon West Middle School. 

“I started the business and it was originally just an in-home music instruction, private one-on-one business,” Crews said. “I started that 20 years ago, probably a little more than that. It just grew — I was going to people’s homes, so the convenience of having someone come to your house for music lessons was a new idea.”

As Orlando Premier Music Instruction grew, Crews began getting overbooked. She hired a couple of close musician friends to help her with instruction. Then she ended up teaching music in the public school system while running her business on the side.

While teaching in Celebration years ago, Crews noticed a lack of after-school programs. She saw that parents were picking their children up from school and taking them elsewhere for music lessons and came up with the idea of starting group music classes.

“It took off,” she said. “It was huge, it really was. We had about 100 kids in that one-hour-a-week program after school. There were so many other schools in that area that didn’t have anything like that either, so my life got a little hectic.” 

Eventually, she switched over to running the business full time and expanded offerings to include performing arts. She contacts various schools to pitch Orlando Premier Music Instruction’s proposals and the types of classes it can offer, from arts to singing to instrument lessons.

After-school programs at the four local schools currently include musical theater and Rhythm Rage, a high-energy bucket drumming course.

Rhythm Rage, a high-energy bucket-drumming class, is all the rage with students. (Courtesy OPMI)

“It’s kind of changed every year,” Crews said in regard to class offerings. “What we propose to the principals is guitar, group piano, group violin classes and then art. We do painting and drawing classes, we can do stop-motion LEGO animation classes. We pitch everything to the principals and ask them, ‘What would you like to see brought here?’ We let them decide. They know their community dynamic. 

“We have a larger array of things we could present,” she said. “It just seems like right now principals are picking up Rhythm Rage and theater. The goal was really to just kind of spread our programs around and expose as many schools as we could.”

Along with Rhythm Rage, musical theater is a popular Orlando Premier Music Instruction offering. Students work toward a final production in Broadway Junior-style shows. Those at Whispering Oak Elementary performed “Alice in Wonderland Jr.” last year and will perform “Willy Wonka Jr.” later this year.

“Any kind of education, especially in music, is so important for your brain, for test and studying skills,” Crews said. “It really is. There’s science and research that prove that learning an instrument completely uses every quadrant of your brain. If we can make it fun and engaging … they’ll be enjoying the class, (they’ll) look forward to coming to the class and they’ll get something out of it.”

Orlando Premier Music Instruction currently offers musical theater classes at SunRidge and Whispering Oak elementary schools, along with Horizon West Middle School. (Courtesy OPMI)

According to Orlando Premier Music Instruction’s website, learning to play an instrument can strengthen motor skills, build self-confidence and broaden creativity. Statistics have also shown, Crews said, that music can strengthen problem-solving skills and better develop the areas of the brain used in math and science. 

The music programs offered through Orlando Premier Music Instruction are geared toward all learning needs and abilities.

“All of these programs build self-confidence, but there’s also a hidden gem there (in that) it helps with a lot of developmental milestones for kids that … extends it further beyond their regular tutoring in school,” Crews said. “I can’t imagine myself really doing anything else.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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