July 2019 Student of the Month - Nigama Yaratapalli

Santa Clara Guitar Lessons, Santa Clara Music Lessons,

Congratulations to CCM’s July 2019 Student of the Month, Nigama. We love seeing students work hard to complete our practice challenges, and Nigama recently received her trophy for practicing every day for 100-days in a row! Nigama takes guitar lessons with Teacher Nia at CCM’s Santa Clara location.

Student of the Month - Nigama Yaratapalli

Q: What is your name?
A: Nigama Yaratapalli
Q: How old are you?
A: I am 6 years old

Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Miss Nia
Q: What advice would you give to a guitar student just starting out at CCM?
A: Practice on posture. It will get difficult to adjust later.
Q: What piece are you looking forward to playing someday?
A: Its a small world afterall.
Q: What is your favorite thing about playing the guitar?
A: Playing the strings feels good
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Dal rice
Q: Do you have a pet?
A: No
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Fire woman
Q: What is your most memorable experience at CCM?
A: First medal for 50 days of practice


Parent Spotlight - Sadhana Chevireddy

Q: Regarding the guitar, what are you most proud of your children accomplishing?
A: We took 100 days practice challenge which I was not sure Nigama would be able to do, but she did it with lot of conviction. I am surprised and felt proud as a parent. I wish she continues the spirit throughout her musical journey.
Q: What advice would you give a new parent starting in the program?
A: Making a 5 year old sit for practice every day is a herculean task. Every single day used to be
a test for my patience. Still it is and I believe it is the case for most kids. But do not lose hope or patience. Just keep up with the practice even it is for 5 minutes. It should become a part of your child's daily routine.
Q: Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
A: Being trained in vocal music myself from a small age, I have always enjoyed it and it has been my soothing medium whenever I am stressed. Also in this technology driven world, music can be a good career alternative in the future, where there will be a dearth of good musicians. So, music can be a good profession that gives you money and peace at the same time!

June 2019 Composer of the Month - Edvard Grieg

Santa Clara music lessons, Redwood City Music Lessons

In June, we celebrate the life of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most famous composer and one of its national treasures. Regarded as one of the leading composers of the Romantic era, Grieg is most famous for the development of Norwegian folk music within his compositions, for bringing a custom sound to Norway’s music, and for sharing that music with a global audience. This is particularly notable considering that Norway wasn’t truly a free country during Grieg’s time (having been under Danish rule and then forced into a union with Sweden). Grieg saw the need for Norway to craft its identity, and he helped carve its musical personality.

Grieg’s compositions are heard everywhere--even today, you’ll hear Grieg’s songs in concert halls, commercials, and even cartoons. You’ll probably recognize some of his tunes from your favorite animated features, and today you can learn not only the names of those famous songs but more about the man behind the music itself.

Early life

Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on June 15, 1843. His father Alexander was a merchant and town councilman; his mother, Gesine Judithe Hagerup, was a music teacher and politician’s daughter. Grieg’s began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six years old, and he continued to study music formally.

He attended Tanks Upper Secondary School and went on to attend the Leipzig Conservatory upon encouragement from Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, whom he met when he was fifteen years old. While at Leipzig, Grieg attended concerts and recitals and concentrated his studies on the piano; however, he did not enjoy the prescribed course of study for the degree program.

When he was seventeen, his body was subjected to two life-threatening lung diseases (pleurisy and tuberculosis); these illnesses would have a permanent and adverse impact on his health, including the destruction of his left lung and deformity of the thoracic spine. In spite of his health issues, Grieg forged ahead in his pursuit of a life rich in music, culture, and meaning.

Grieg’s career in music

Grieg debuted as a concert pianist in Karlshamn, Sweden, in 1861, and completed his studies at Leipzig the following year. He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1863 and spent time learning from Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak, the writer behind Norway’s national anthem. In Nordraak, Grieg found inspiration and patriotism, and used that as a means to fuel and convey the stories and scenes from his motherland into his music.

Grieg lived and worked in Copenhagen for three more years, eventually marrying his cousin Nina Hagerup. The couple became parents to a daughter, Alexandra, and it was after Alexandra’s birth that Grieg composed his first major work, Piano Concerto in A Minor. Sadly, Alexandra died from meningitis in 1869.

Notable career moments

The late 1860s brought Grieg personal success and tragedies; however, it was during this time period that his career as a composer began to flourish. Without even having met him, Franz Liszt wrote a testimony on Grieg’s behalf for the Norwegian Ministry of Education so that Grieg could receive a travel grant to Rome. Grieg made the trip to Italy twice to meet with Liszt, who wanted to perform Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 1 and the Piano Concerto.

Word caught on about the Scandinavian composer, and Henrik Ibsen requested that Grieg compose the music for the premiere of his play, Peer Gynt. These songs are among the most famous of Grieg’s work. The music is replete with imagery of Norway’s mountains, angry trolls, and a happy ending, straight from the lore of the fjords.

In addition to his work with Ibsen, Grieg continued to compose for lyric poets and other writers, including von Goethe, Hans Christian Anderson, and Rudyard Kipling.

Later in life

Grieg received two honorary doctorate degrees (one from the University of Cambridge and the other from the University of Oxford). Grieg served as Music Director of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Grieg remains Bergen’s most celebrated citizen: countless statues bear his image and numerous buildings share his name. The Edvard Grieg Museum is housed at his former home, Troldhaugen--Grieg wrote Wedding Day at Troldhaugen to celebrate his and Nina’s anniversary at their home.

In his later years, Grieg battled numerous respiratory infections and other health issues stemming from his teenage illnesses. He died in a Bergen hospital on September 4, 1907, from heart failure.

Signature pieces:

Listen to some of Grieg’s compositions hear--you may very well be acquainted with these tunes and didn’t know that Grieg was the man behind the music!

From Peer Gynt: Morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR8DJkIY6Yk

From Peer Gynt: In The Hall of The Mountain King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC7-29kM0SA

Piano Concerto in A Minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Yoyz6_Los

David Russell playing Grieg Lyric Pieces on guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI0UXrBWuHU

If you or your child are interested in taking music lessons at CCM’s Santa Clara location or Redwood City location, please contact us to sign up for a free 15-minute introductory lesson. We offer piano lessons, guitar lessons, violin lessons, and more. Start your musical journey today, and be on your way to becoming a better musician!

6 Ways To Help Your Child Practice At Home


Whether you have a musical background or not, there are a few key ideas that can help your child practice at home.

  1. Be aware of what your child needs to practice

When you know what your child is working on and what their homework is (so to speak), you’re better equipped to help. Ask the music teacher what your child needs to focus on this week: was a new topic or skill covered in lessons? Does your student need to review something from a few weeks ago? Its always a great idea to either sit in on the lesson to see how things are going or to at least drop in for the last couple minutes to check in.

2. Create an inviting practice space

You don’t have to have an entire room in your house dedicated as a music room--most of us don’t have that kind of square footage! What can work is if you have an inviting place for your child to practice their music. Nobody will feel like playing the piano if there’s no lamp nearby or if the bench is currently holding stacks of magazines. Tidy up the place where your family keeps instruments and outfit that space with plenty of light, pencils and erasers, and a music stand (if needed). Offer a cubby or storage bin for keeping practice books and sheet music, too.  Most of all, be sure to keep this space free of distractions (like the Xbox or siblings) during practice time.

3. Show your child how to structure practice time.

“I don’t know what to practice!” is the battle cry of many children who either honestly can’t remember what they’re supposed to do at home or kids who just don’t want to practice. Combat this common complaint head-on by asking your music teacher for suggestions on how to structure a practice session. Typically, students will need to do a warm-up (which could be a song or some scales), review specific techniques or musical selections from the previous lesson, and work on something new. At the end of the practice session, encourage your child to play whatever they want whether that’s a favorite song they’ve played a hundred times or inventing something new just for the fun of it. It’s always best to end on a positive note!  

Your direct involvement with practice sessions depends on your child’s age and maturity level, but always having a to-do list from your teacher will help keep the goals on track!

4. Practice regularly

In order to do anything well, you need to practice. Whether you aim for three practice sessions in between lessons or ask your child to provide you with “some dinner music” while you’re getting the meal ready, find a sense of regularity that can work with your family’s schedule.  Remember to encourage the good things you hear coming out of the practice room!

5. Don’t make this a chore

Don’t withhold other “fun” activities like playing outside, bringing out the Legos, or sitting down with the Xbox “until you’ve practiced.” This makes the other activities look like they contain all of the fun when playing music is supposed to be a fun activity itself! If you treat other activities like rewards, your child will feel more angst towards music practice.  

6. Practice Rewards

We have some great practice point systems and rewards at CCM to help motivate our students! Please talk to our teachers and our staff about these options. They have helped so many kids get motivated!


You want your child to enjoy their lessons, and a large part of that comes from finding the right teacher. If your child has fun at their lessons and feels like they’re making progress, they’ll be more motivated to practice at home. Our music school can match you with the right teacher for your child’s learning style. Not already a piano, guitar, violin, cello, piano or voice student at CCM? Contact us today to see how we can help your child have fun making music!

Preparing for your Recital Performance

Recital Preparation 

In our last blog post on practice tips, we discussed the importance of consistent practice and listening to music. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, you should check it out here! “Making the Most of Your Music Lessons”

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
—Benjamin Franklin.

Preparation is the most crucial part of having a successful performance. This is of course true whether you are going to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or an advanced Concerto.

February 2019 Student of the Month - Abigail Hsiung

Congratulations to CCM’s February 2019 Student of the Month Abigail Hsiung! Abigail is a 5-year-old piano student of teacher Lawrence and takes music lessons at CCM’s Santa Clara location. Abigail, along with many other CCM students participate in our practice challenges so they can work towards earning stickers, ribbons, medals, and even trophies.

January 2019 Student(s) of the Month - Jack and Elle Davisson

We are excited to kick off the New Year with CCM’s first Student(s) of the Month of 2019. Congratulations to Jack and Elle Davisson who have been CCM students now for eight years. Jack and Elle have extensively traveled the U.S. performing in concerts and competitions. They were recently featured on NPR’s hit show “From the Top” in December where they performed as the Davisson Duo. Take a listen here! Jack and Elle take guitar lessons with CCM co-director Chris Mallett at the The California Conservatory of Music’s Redwood City location.

Student(s) of the Month - Jack and Elle Davisson

Q: What is your name?

A: Jack davisson
Elle davisson

Q: How old are you?
A: Jack: I turned fourteen this month
Elle: I recently turned 11

Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?
A: Jack: I have been taking lessons for 8.5 years
Elle: I have been taking lessons for 7 years

Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Chris Mallett

Q: What pieces are you currently working on?
A: Jack: A sonata by Ginastera, some Albeniz, some Villa Lobos
Elle: Songe Capricorne by Dyens, some Villa Lobos, some Scarlatti

Q: Can you tell us a memorable experience you have had playing together as the Davisson Duo?
A: The Davisson Duo was recently featured on NPR's from the top. We travelled all the way to Maine to record that show. That whole experience was very new, very different and very memorable.

Q: What are some of the festivals/competitions you have participated in?

  • Guitar foundation of america youth competition (solo and ensemble)

  • Junior Bach festival

  • Columbus state university guitar symposium & competition

  • Indiana international guitar festival & competition

  • Boston guitar fest

  • United States international music competition

  • Sierra Nevada classical guitar festival & competition

  • SF Bay Area classical guitar festival & competition

Q: What is your favorite piece that you have played so far?
A: Jack: Tarantelle by Johann Kasper Mertz
Elle: Evocacion by Jose Luis Merlin

Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
A: Jack: Soccer, tennis, ping pong, anything that involves kicking or hitting a ball, reading, building with my hands like ceramics and woodworking
Elle: Reading, reading, and reading, soccer and tae kwon do, jewelry-making, painting and playing with computer or high-tech gizmos

Q: You both have done extensive outreach in the community. How do you feel it has impacted you as a musician and a person?
A: Community outreach helps you to remember that there is more to music than just practicing and competing. Playing at a retirement community for example makes you realize that it's possible to give real joy through music. It makes all the practicing and hard work feel more important.

Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Jack: Mexican, asian, italian. I like it all.
Elle: Ice cream

Q: Do you have a pet?
A: We have a very sensitive, very delicate little german shepherd. She weighs 70 pounds, barks viciously and has a habit of charging other dogs. But she's really just a softie and super sweet under all that.

Parent Spotlight: Monica Davisson

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your jack and elle accomplishing?
A: I am most proud of the fact that jack and elle have practiced every day since july 7, 2012. We celebrate every july 7th in grand style. July 7th is also my wedding anniversary. Sadly, the wedding anniversary is often overshadowed by the guitar anniversary.

Q: What advice would you give to a new parent starting at CCM?
A: Think of musical education with your children as a long, long-distance journey. Take it slowly, expect the terrain to change often, enjoy the scenic moments, brave the less scenic ones and learn to move around the road-blocks. Don't be discouraged if it seems all uphill. Learning a musical instrument is hard work and children are not hardwired to work hard. But the rewards are indeed immeasurable and the occasions when they get to celebrate their musical efforts are truly sublime.

Making the Most of Music Lessons

Making the Most of Music Lessons

It should go without saying that one of the most crucial part of a music student’s success is the quality and consistency of their practice at home. So we at The California Conservatory of Music want to be sure to give you all some great practice tips!

There are so many similarities between learning a language and learning music. Numerous studies exist that demonstrate a link between music education and increased verbal skills and an increased ability to learn languages later in life. (Check out this article if interested) When you take the fundamental components that go into language acquisition and apply them to music education, you get some really simple yet powerful strategies for great music practice.  


We all learned our mother tongue by being in an environment where it was spoken and then constantly trying to mimic the sounds we heard in our surrounding. Consistency with respect to practice is no secret - every music teacher everywhere will tell their students to practice piano or guitar or whatever everyday. And you should! The issue of course is time and motivation. Here are a couple ideas to help make this easier:

  1. Try to practice at the same time everyday. Make it a routine. Some students do it before they go to school, some do it after dinner, but the point is to try to help your child develop regularity. To make it a habit

  2. A little goes a long way. When students first start out, 10 minutes can be enough. If you only have 5 minutes, then just play for 5 minutes. The point here is to fight the all or nothing mentality.

  3. Awards work and they help create habits. We have had students getting practice points, awards, and certificates for their hard work for years to great success. Please talk to our office staff or your teacher about our practice challenges to get one started!


Just like the “mother tongue” idea mentioned above, listening to music consistently will help students develop their vocabulary. When babies start learning a language, the first sounds they hear are called phonemes. There are about 150 that are used in around 6500 languages, and English uses 49. When the brain starts to realize it only needs to recognize combinations of those 49, it starts only focusing on these, which is why its harder to learn languages later in life.

What’s your point?

Younger kids are often only played “baby music” or let’s say, at the risk of sounding pretentious, simple music. This quickly starts to limit their capacity to recognize pitch, harmony and more complicated rhythms. Classical music are great options for students’ ears to take in more complex harmonies, pitch structures and rhythms among other things. If you don’t know what to listen to, just put on a playlist on Spotify or Apple music. You can just let it play it in the background at home and in the car. “Ok Google play some classical music” works too! More advanced students should listen to pieces they are working on to get ideas from mature artists on phrasing and expression. Imagine a writer who didn’t read or a painter who didn’t see! Listen to music people!

The next component that’s super crucial in effective practice and also a part of language acquisition is is the idea of repetition, but we will talk about this more in our next post.

Key Points:

  1. Successful music students practice on a daily basis. Try to make it a habit. Routines and rewards can be super helpful in making this easier!

  2. Listen to classical music - it’s a beautiful treasure and it will help develop your ear!

Student of the Month - Shanaya Gupta

Congratulations to CCM’s December 2018 Student of the Month Shanaya Gupta. Shanaya has been taking guitar lessons at CCM for two years and hasn’t looked back since. She is a dedicated student who practices, and as you will read below, she is well aware of how important daily practice is. We are so proud of her hard work and look forward to watching her grow as a musician.