by Peter Schmidtke
Their faces grin behind framed posters — glossy photos of micro musicians holding up cellos and guitars and posing in front of pianos. In the frame set aside for the “Little Mozarts,” a boy around kindergarten age has taken a break from the piano keyboard to wait for the flash of the camera. The children in the photos range from four years old to middle-school-aged. J.S. Cable Music Studio owner and Riverwester Jennette Cable points to the pictures, showing the different “clubs” or levels that her students work through by learning about the components of music. “They are motivators to keep the kids working on their musical theory,” Cable says of the clubs during a tour of the studio. “It’s good for children to see their accomplishments.” On a tour of the 1800-square-foot studio, Cable starts with the main floor, complete with a combination acoustic/player piano and a side room where students can practice their music theory and listening exercises on a computer and CD player. Both rooms are spacious and clean with white and light blue hues decorated with posters and framed nature scenes. The downstairs practice room features splotchy purple and green renditions by students. The studio has such an immediately calming effect that it’s hard to believe that this is only Cable’s second year in the brick, two story building at the corner of Pierce and Burleigh. But she’s been teaching for decades, including more than six years of private lessons out of her home. “I was getting so many students that I had to move it somewhere else,” Cable says. “It was starting to wear out my carpet.” Before she opened her home-based studio in 1996, she taught emotionally-disturbed children at St. Aemilian Lakeside and managed to squeeze in music sessions with the children during her prep periods. Cable, who received her certification in music education from UWM, also served for a number of years as the director of the choir, orchestra, and general music programs at Milwaukee’s Eastbrook Academy, a position from which she retired this past Christmas. With each of her own 40-45 voice and piano students at her studio, Cable works through a basic curriculum, including ear training, musical theory, and technique exercises, but as she points out, additional “supplementary” materials are geared towards students’ likes and dislikes. “You want them to be interested and to love what they are doing,” she stresses, adding that while some of her students enjoy exploring the classics, many incorporate jazz, folk, and country songs into their play lists. Students sign up for one-on-one, 30-minute lessons on a year-by year commitment and pay in advance by the semester. She has a 12- to 18-month waiting list for lessons. “We want to focus on the kids and the relationships between the students and the teachers,” she says. “I feel like we get a little better quality student, because they are committed for a longer time.” The price, she says, ends up being comparable to what others charge — maybe slightly less — and it’s better for building relationships if the teachers know their students will be at the studio two weeks down the road. Building relationships is a theme to which Cable returns frequently. Most of her students, she says, stay with the studio for four or more years until they discover school band or orchestra. She believes it is the quality of the relationships that they form with their teachers at the studio that helps them achieve the most musically. To help maintain her studio’s high standards, her teachers, she says, must have either a degree in music or be a performing musician. “For me, they’ve really got to love kids and really want to build a relationship with kids,” she emphasizes. “The money has to be second in importance.” In addition to Cable, there are three other teachers at the clinic, and they teach piano, guitar and cello. She also has a banjo teacher on the docket, but has had difficulty finding adult or school-aged students, and she says she would like to add a violin teacher to her clinic. While Cable normally teaches voice and piano, she did instruct a group of home-schooled string players last summer, and she says she would like to expand to develop more programs to help home-schooled musicians prepare for band and orchestra. She also teaches “Kindermusik” classes for children aged 0-7 years and offers a “consulting plan” for high school students in which they can opt for four one-hour sessions throughout the semester at their convenience. To better suit adults’ busy schedules, Cable is also willing to provide adult students with one-hour lessons twice per month. Although Cable has adult students, and her web site advertises individual instruction at her studio for people ages “3 to 103 years old,” she says that’s not really the aim of the studio. “The mission is to mentor children through music.” To learn more about the J.S. Cable Music Instruction Studio, call 374-0657 or go to www.jscablemusic.practicespot.com.