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Keys to success: Music program helps students build self-esteem

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Keys to success: Music program helps students build self-esteem
Keys to success: Music program helps students build self-esteem

Music on the Westside student Jenna Tulonen plays a section of “Roman Holiday” as she practices for her lesson last week.

When Music on the Westside Founder Jen Brewer realized her children couldn’t get musical education at school, she took it upon herself to start a music school out of her own home.

Today, Brewer’s desire has turned into a music program with 175 students and eight part-time music instructors.

“We started Music on the Westside about eight years ago in my living room,” Brewer said. “We had teachers coming in just like a commercial facility and when it got to the point that we had too many cars on our block, I had to look for a commercial space.”

It was at this point that Brewer said she had to choose between going back to a corporate setting or continuing to push for the music program she believed in so much.

“I decided to stick with the music and opened Music on the Westside two years ago,” she said.

One of the biggest reasons Brewer said she opened a local music school was the limited options on this side of town.

“There really aren’t any music places in general, and there’s a lack of music in schools, and I wanted my kids to have music, not as a focus, but a fun activity for them to participate in,” she said.

According to Brewer, Music on the Westside primarily offers piano and guitar lessons. Group lessons and private lessons are available with an emphasis on how fun playing an instrument can be, instead of a rigorous practice routine.

“We don’t do recitals,” she said. “We might have our students play on a patio at a local restaurant for 20 minutes instead. Plus, if they don’t practice because life can busy, they don’t get penalized.”

Brewer said her school has the philosophy that what students put into learning an instrument is what they get out of it.

Keys to success: Music program helps students build self-esteem

Jen Brewer, left, director of Music on the Westside, stands beside Office Manger Noemi Solis.

Music on the Westside participant Jenna Tulonen, a 15-year-old high school student who has been playing the piano for three years, said her confidence level has risen because of her involvement in the lessons.

“I love the piano, but now I have been working on the singing aspect of music,” Jenna said. “I would like to be able to sing and play the piano at the same time.”

Jenna said she has been practicing with songs she already knows the lyrics to so she can concentrate on her playing, a technique she describes as splitting her brain in two.

“After a hard day at school, it’s great to have this outlet…self expression in a few moments, it makes me feel really happy and takes away the events of the day and allows you to focus on something else,” Jenna said.

Jill Tulonen, Jenna’s mom, said her daughter has come out of her shell since taking the lessons.

“My daughter has always been a perfectionist, so she has always done well in her school work, but she has been painfully shy,” Tulonen said. “After taking lessons here, she has just blossomed. She can speak in public now and for the next recital, she is going to be singing.”

Tulonen said her daughter considers Music on the Westside a safe place to express herself and try new things.

Brewer said lessons typically cost $120 a month and the price goes up for one-on-one sessions.

“One thing I want to point out is, we are not meant to ever be a conservatory,” Brewer said. “My focus is not to be a huge school that prepares for scholarships; it’s to come in and gain experience and enjoy music.”

For more information on Music on the Westside, go to