Student of the Month January 2018 Ajit Jain

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We are excited to bring in the New Year with our first 2018 student of the month, Ajit Jain! Ajit studies with Teach Alexandra at CCM's Santa Clara location. Ajit and his parents have been a part of CCM for over 3 years. In addition to his weekly private lessons, Ajit is also part of the group class that we offer for guitar students. 

Student of the Month - Ajit Jain

What is your name? Ajit Jain
How old are you? Just turned 8
How long have you been studying guitar? Since I was 4 years and 9 months old. 
Who is your teacher? Teacher Alexandra

What advice would you give to a guitar student just starting out?  Learn to arch your wrist and keep your thumb in front in your playing hand when you're younger so that playing is easier when you get older.
What piece are you looking forward to playing?  Malagueña and Packington's Pound
What is your favorite thing about playing guitar?  My favorite thing about playing the guitar is attending the recitals because it's fun watching the other kids. 
What is your favorite food?  Mac and Cheese
What are some of your hobbies outside of guitar? I love to play flag football and my favorite position to play is wide receiver. I also like to play basketball and baseball and I'm learning ice hockey. 
What do you want to be when you grow up?  An NFL Football Player.
What is your proudest guitar moment?  Performing Corrente by Paganini at the most recent CCM Recital in October 2017. 

Parent Spotlight Ajit Jain & Purvi Mody

Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your child accomplishing? 
Ajit's greatest challenges with the guitar have been arching his wrist and allowing his thumb to remain ahead of his playing fingers (right hand). In the past few months his persistence with the arch and thumb have finally begun to take shape and although he still needs reminding he has come a long way. There have been some tough days in this regard so we are very proud of how far he has come. We are also really proud to see how Ajit has matured through guitar. When he started, he was a very shy child. Through guitar, he has become more confident, willing to talk to adults and authority figures and perform in public. He was nervous about performing in front of his friends at school this year, but then actually really loved the attention and answering the great questions his friends asked him. A proud moment indeed.

What advice would you give a new parent starting at CCM? 
You must be fully committed to guitar at CCM which means practicing every day, and attending every lesson and group class. In the early days of our son's guitar experience with CCM, we did not take the guitar with us when we travelled. We would notice that he would regress somewhat and forget some material. Even now when he goes back to an older song that he no longer practices daily it takes him time to pick it up again. So consistent and regular daily practice is critical and we would recommend that the same parent commits to being the mentor for the guitar student. Like with any other activity, there will be ups and downs. With young children, those highs and lows feel even more pronounced. Give it at least one year if you are serious. Be patient with your child. A love of music takes time to develop.

Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
Both of us took part in musical education as children but wish we had been more committed. Our son was naturally inclined towards music and we wanted to expose him to instruments early on. Ajit's dad played the guitar for about six years as a child so it felt natural that our son do guitar since his dad could spend the necessary time. When our son was four the Suzuki method was the only learning philosophy that took kids interested in learning the guitar at such a young age. We believe that learning music is critical to creativity, critical thinking, and developing patience in young kids.

What is your favorite piece Suzuki guitar piece so far?

Ajit is still in the process of refining Waltz in Book 2. We like it most because it has pushed Ajit hard to learn new techniques and improve his hand technique (both left and right) and we can see the pride he is filled with when he improves or succeeds with something new related to this piece. Corrente is tied for first as it is his mom's favourite. 

Music is Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul at Any Age


Music has been said to be medicine to the soul. Though many throughout the ages would probably agree, it is now during the modern age where scientific data is preeminent that this sentiment is proved to be true. Taking music lessons and learning to play an instrument has benefits that go beyond delighting the ears of the listeners.

Physical Benefits

Music is a physical activity no matter if you are singing, playing a wind or string instrument, or percussion. All involve breathwork, muscle coordination, and endurance.

Deeper Breathing

Singing and playing many instruments require the player to breathe deeply so that they can sustain their breath. When we begin to breathe more deeply while we play and throughout our day, our lungs and respiratory system are strengthened .

Immune Response

Playing an instrument and making music has been shown to stimulate our immune system’s response, allowing us to better fight viruses and other harmful free radicals.  

Stress Relief

We all deal with an exceeding amount of stress—even many young kids are stressed due to over commitment. The concentration and physicality of making music are actually an effective means of stress relief.

Fine Hearing

Playing a musical instrument and learning to sing all require a trained ear. Such attention to the nuances of a note created takes time and allows the musician to generally have better hearing especially in noisy environments when it is necessary to listen to a specific voice.


Playing an instrument, singing, and making music all require a certain amount of physicality. Whether it be breathing or moving your arm to play a specific note, music increases one’s coordination, endurance, breath capacity, and their posture.

Mental Benefits

Music is powerful and influential, increasing the health of the body and the abilities of the mind.

Mental Performance

Music requires the engagement of every part of your brain. This mental activity is powerful enough to help patients recover from a stroke and to slow the effects of dementia.


Coordination isn’t just an aspect of our physical bodies, but also our minds. Playing a musical instrument will increase one’s hand-eye coordination and can be that catalyst for the healthy development of motor skills.

Time Management

Making time for practicing our instrument can be difficult no matter what age. However, learning how to prioritize tasks, such as practicing one’s instrument, can help anyone learn the art of time management.

Reading Skills

Reading music, especially at fast tempos, can increase your capacity to process and absorb information as well as make mental connections. This increased mental ability is due to the new physical connections being developed between synapses in the brain.

Listening Skills

As mentioned above, taking music lessons and learning to play an instrument or sing requires listening skills that allow the player to hear the differences between notes, chords, and more. Playing or singing music may increase your ability to focus and listen to conversations, lectures, and more.


Practice time and generally playing an instrument requires concentration. As you flex and work your concentration “muscle” you will be able to better concentrate while playing, while in class, and during everyday life.


Music can actually help one with their math skills. Recognizing patterns in music allows the player to better recognize patterns. Additionally, learning the division of notes can actually help increase one’s math skills.


Emotional Benefits

Music affects us deeply. It can change the way we feel, even bringing us to tears or lightening our mood. Playing an instrument, singing, and creating music can have a profound effect on our emotional health.

Self Expression

Creating our own music or interpreting someone else's piece is an opportunity for self-expression. Expressing oneself through music can have powerful effects on our emotions including creating positive effects on depression, anxiety, and self-esteem.


Playing music can eliminate stress and aid with insomnia and depression. Not only is playing music a great way to distract your mind from the stresses of the day, but it can also be a means of release and soothing that are necessary for our well-being and happiness.


Playing a piece well and learning an instrument is an achievement and no matter what age you are, it can give you satisfaction and a self-esteem boost—both of which can create positive momentum to reach other goals and achieve in all areas of life.  

New Friends

Music can be a solitary art, but often through band, orchestra, choir, or other musical groups, we can experience the enjoyment and power of music with others our own age giving us a sense of community, connection, and the chance of making lasting friendships.

Are you or your child interested in learning how to play an instrument or sing and live in the Santa Clara or Redwood City area? The California Conservatory offers music lessons to students of all ages including guitar lessons, violin lessons, vocal lessons, piano lessons, music theory courses, and more. Learn more about The California Conservatory and the lessons we offer on our website.

December 2017 Student of the Month

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Congratulations to CCM's December 2017 Student of the Month Arjun Apte. Arjun's enthusiasm for music shows each week when he walks in for his lesson with a huge smile excited to learn. Arjun's hard work and dedication to practice shines through with each note, and after just one and a half years, his playing already displays incredible ease. Arjun studies with teacher Tim at The California Conservatory of Music's Santa Clara location. Keep up the great work!

December Student of the Month - Arjun Apte

What is your name? 
Arjun Apte

How old are you? 
6 and a half

How long have you been studying guitar? 
1 and a half years

Who is your teacher? 
Teacher Tim

What advice would you give to a guitar student just starting out? 
Have fun playing guitar

What piece are you looking forward to playing? 
Last song in book 9

What is your favorite thing about playing guitar? 
How the strings work


What is your favorite food? 
Cheese pizza

What are some of your hobbies outside of playing guitar? 
Reading books

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
Basketball player

What is your proudest guitar moment? 
When I finished book 1

Parent Spotlight: Smruti and Atul Apte

Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of Arjun accomplishing? 
His dedication to daily practice

What advice would you give a new parent starting at CCM? 
Have patience and believe in the CCM teachers, they are great at what they do!

Why did you decide to give Arjun a musical upbringing? 
We believe that music is a good way to generate happiness within and around you. We felt that an early exposure to music would build a love for it in Arjun, which would hopefully help him in the long run.

How has music impacted Arjun's life? 
It has helped him focus and improved his confidence.

Faber Piano Adventures Teaching Method®: Why We Love It

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The ways in which students learn the piano vary. Some have primarily learned to play the piano through guided lessons and a series of method books. Others have learned through adapted teaching styles that are unique to a particular teacher and a very lucky few have become masters of the instrument through simply listening and watching others play the piano and through their own experimentation. Many of the piano teachers at The California Conservatory in both our Santa Clara and Redwood City locations use the Faber Piano Adventures lesson book series. Today, we are going to briefly discuss why our piano teachers love this teaching method and use it for many of our piano lesson students.

Approach to Reading

To introduce students to the keyboard, the location of the notes, and begin teaching the basics of playing the instrument, many piano lesson teaching methods capitalize on teaching through particular hand positions such as the C position. Though these methods can be effective, many students become frustrated wondering what hand position they are in and struggle to know what the notes are on the keyboard. These problems can be crippling to a student’s advancement. According to the Faber website, the ability to read music is developed by: discreet note recognition, intervallic reading, and a multi-key understanding. Faber’s Piano Adventures aims to develop and integrate each of these skills.

Pianistic Music

Each piece that is included in the Piano Adventures is arranged and written for the piano; this pianistic arranging is considered the hallmark of this method. Why is this important? Having a pianistic arrangement of each piece included in the method allows each piece to look and feel right while being played on the piano, and allows for a relaxed wrist as the student plays. Additionally, the student will become familiar playing the full range of the piano as well as with the damper pedal and the integral gestures, motions, and phrasing that allow a student to play the piano technically well and with musical expression.

Artistic Music

In addition to including music that promotes proper technique and style, the pieces used in this method are also musical. As a result, students begin early on to express their own musicality as they play. Not only can this provide the student more enjoyment, but it also aids in developing those gestures, motions, and phrasing mentioned above that allow the student to begin to play with proper style and technique. Also, students begin to hear and will learn to listen for the sounds and musical phrasing that are what truly makes music.  

Student Appeal

As a result of each piece’s musicality, students tend to enjoy playing the pieces that they are assigned in the Piano Adventures. When students enjoy what they are playing they are more apt to discipline themselves to practice and master each piece. Too many parents have known the plight of unsuccessful piano lessons and their children’s reluctance to practice. Learning to play the piano and developing a love of music isn’t for everyone. However, having a piano lesson method that not only trains the mind and muscles, but also captures the heart of the student is crucial for successful teaching and mastery of the piano and, really any instrument.

Supplementary Library

Faber’s PreTime® to BigTime® Piano Supplementary Library is made to supplement the Piano Adventures method and provide students more pieces that interest their particular music tastes. Pieces are written at a variety of skill levels to correlate with the Piano Adventures method and include popular pieces as well as rock n’ roll, classics, jazz and blues, ragtime and marches, children’s songs, hymns, and more.

Our piano teachers have seen that Faber’s Piano Adventures method has not only successfully taught many of our students the techniques and fundamentals of piano playing, but has also instilled a love of music and the piano itself. If you are looking for piano lessons in the Santa Clara and Redwood City areas, visit our website to learn more about our piano teachers and the supplemental music classes The California Conservatory offers!

How to Choose the Correct Size Violin for Your Child


Music is something that can be appreciated at any age and it is never too early to begin introducing your child to the music you love. Some children naturally gravitate to music and beg for music lessons. Others may need to be introduced to music and will need to find their niche. Whatever the reason for taking music lessons in Santa Clara, one of the first steps for setting your child up for success while they enjoy learning an instrument like the violin is finding the right size of instrument. Due to their size and depending on their age, children taking violin lessons will need to begin learning to play the violin on a smaller instrument than what is used by adults. Today, we will be discussing the basic parts of the violin and how to find the right size instrument for your child.

Parts of the Violin

A violin is made up of many parts. However, today we are simply going to talk about those basic parts that make up this instrument. By introducing you to the parts of the violin, you will be able to help your child find the right size instrument for them:

Body - The largest “part” of the violin is the body.

Neck - The neck is the skinny part of the violin that branches off the body of the violin.

Scroll - The scroll is located at the very end of the neck.

Pegs - The pegs on the neck just below the scroll are what allows the violin to be tuned.

Strings - The strings are easy to find and run almost the entire length of the violin.

Bridge - As the strings travel the neck and down the body of the violin, you will encounter the bridge under and perpendicular to the strings.

Tailpiece - As the strings go up and over the bridge, they are connected to the body of the violin by the tailpiece.

Sound Hole/”F” Hole - Though these holes in the body of the violin may seem like just decorative element, they are a key part of the violin that allows the instrument to produce sound.

Basic Guidelines

Finding the right size violin for your child can be determined by two factors: first their age and then their size. Using charts like the one below can help you know where to begin when selecting the instrument.


Steps to Determine the Right Size

Like many things, instruments are not made to be “one size fits all.” Once you’ve determined what size or sizes of violins might work for your child, you can perform the following test to make sure that the violin you’ve selected truly fits your child.

  1. Hold the violin - Have your child place the violin with the body of violin between their neck and left shoulder with the neck facing away from them—like they are about to begin playing.

  2. Point their left arm straight out beneath the violin - Again, in the position they would be to play the instrument

  3. Have them curl their left hand fingers around the neck just under the scroll

After they are in position, you will be able to determine how the violin fits. A violin that fits well will allow your child’s left hand fingers to touch the the neck of violin just under the scroll easily. If it’s too big, their fingers won’t reach the top of the neck and if they have to bend their left arm to wrap their hand around the scroll, the instrument is too small.

Investing in an Instrument

Buying an instrument—even a child’s size violin—can cost up to and beyond $1000. For some, investing in an instrument that will have to be replaced may seem exceptionally costly, especially with the prospect of having to buy a bigger size once their child grows. However, you have options, so don’t let the price of an instrument deter you from investing in violin lessons for your child. Renting an instrument instead of buying one can be an affordable option. Be sure to talk to your violin teacher or local music store about your options.

Is your child ready for violin lessons? The California Conservatory in Santa Clara offers violin lessons and music classes for children of all ages using the trusted and exceptional Suzuki Method. Visit our website to learn more!

November 2017 Student of the Month - Aanya Hariharan

Aanya performing at the CCM Santa Clara recital October 29th

Aanya performing at the CCM Santa Clara recital October 29th

Aanya post performance bow

Aanya post performance bow

Student Spotlight: Aanya Hariharan

We would like to congratulate our November 2017 student of the month Aanya Hariharan. Aanya takes piano lessons with teacher Briana at CCM's Santa Clara location. We are excited to see Aanya's rapid progress and she recently performed in her first CCM recital on Sunday, October 29th. Don't forget to check out her mother, Bhargavi's parent spotlight below!

How old are you?
I am 9 years old.

Who is your teacher?
My piano teacher is Miss Briana.

What advice would you give to a pianist just starting out?
My advice I would give to a pianist just starting out is enjoy the piece you play and know that is always okay to make mistakes.

What pieces are you currently working on?
The pieces I am currently working on are Half-time show and The Juggler.

What is your favorite piece to play on the piano?
My favorite piece to play on the piano is Happy Birthday to you!

What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is pizza.

What other activities do you enjoy doing?
Other activities I enjoy doing are ice skating, tennis, music, and dance.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I would like to be a famous designer who designs famous people's clothes.

Parent spotlight: Bhargavi

Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
Music has always been a part of our family and I have loved music since childhood and I wanted to share that with my kids. I wanted them to learn something that they can own it and use it to engage themselves during their free time. Music is also known to calm our nerves and with all the stress that they may undergo in their life, I wanted them to be able to play something for themselves and enjoy it when needed. 

What advice do you have for parents just starting out at CCM?
Initially, when they are young they may not enjoy especially with the daily practice routine but keep up with the program and encourage your child. Have something nice to say to them when they practice at home. Eventually you will see your child's musical journey blossom and they will start enjoying it.

What's it like for you to have two kids in the program? 

I have both my kids aged 9 and 15 in this program. My son has been with CCM for over 8 years now (since 2nd grade) and I have seen his passion for music blossomed through the Suzuki program and he really enjoys playing guitar. 

I love the Suzuki program as I feel connected and involved with my child's musical journey and I am able to help them when they practice at home which is an added advantage. The one-on-one lessons, the weekend group classes, the group concerts and the parental involvement have helped them to play better, be self motivated and enjoy music, and be more confident of themselves. The discipline and the daily practice routine has also transferred to other areas of their life. Both my kid's teachers Chris (Guitar) and Briana (Piano) have been fantastic in developing a well-rounded musician and my heartfelt thanks to them and I would highly recommend to other new parents who are in search of a good music school and teacher. 

CCM 2017 Fall Recitals

On October 29th we presented our bi-annual student recital held at CCM Santa Clara. Over 200 students from both our Redwood City and Santa Clara locations performed in what was easily our biggest recital day yet! Over the course of the day, we held eight student recitals from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Families and friends packed in to watch their children perform on stage what they had been preparing for the past couple of months.

Students of all ages played throughout the day, and we even had several 3-year-olds perform for their first time. If a student is new to the program and hasn't learned a complete piece yet, our instructors still encourage them to go out on stage to bow and demonstrate their four steps with the guitar to show the beginnings of their musical journey. Walking out on stage in front of an audience, even if not playing a piece of music, will help build confidence for future performances. 

This year, we added a new adult recital and had over a dozen of our adult students participate performing pieces that ranged from J.S. Bach to Villa-Lobos. 

Thank you to everyone who helped make this recital a memorable experience, and we look forward to the next one!

Effective practice

Get the Most out of your Music Lessons

All instruments come with their own inherent difficulties. Beginning music students often have difficulty with intonation on the violin or cello, stretching out the fingers for leaps on the piano or fretting the notes on the guitar. What doesn’t change, regardless of the instrument you choose for your music lessons is the approach you should take towards practice. 

With student recitals approaching at the end of the month, here are some great tips on how to make your practice as effective as possible:

Slow Practice

Make sure you play through your pieces at a very slow tempo. When you work in this way, it is easy to play without tension in your hands or arms and gives you time to visualize the movements and music. It also reveals when and where you may be relying too heavily on muscle memory. 

If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly.
— Itzhak Perlman


Our brains are wired to learn through repetition. It is very helpful to break pieces down into smaller sections or passages and practice these a few times. Make sure you do this slowly and with a clear mind! For younger students, playing a game or rolling a die really helps them do repetitions without losing theory focus. Older students can switch up the sections they are practicing and cycle back through them multiple times. 


Spot practice: as mentioned above, all instruments have their own inherent difficulties but pieces do too! Make sure you spend extra time with the parts of the piece that cause you the most difficulty!

October 2017 Student of the Month Meran Brito

Congratulations to CCM's October student of the month Meran Brito. Meran has been a student at the California Conservatory of Music in Santa Clara since the beginning and has loved guitar since his first lesson. Meran is a hardworking student who always comes to his lesson prepared and excited to learn something new! He is currently working towards his one-year challenge. Don't forget to check out his mother, Deepika's parent spotlight below as well as an excerpt of Meran playing Joao Pernambuco's Sound of Bells from Suzuki Book 6. Keep up the great work Meran!

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Student of the Month: Meran Brito

How old are you? 13
How long have you been playing guitar? 7 years
Who is your teacher? Chris Mallett
What advice would you give to a guitarist just starting out? Get a concept of the whole piece before starting to learn it section by section.

What pieces are you currently working on? Sonata by Dominico Cimarosa
What is your favorite piece to play on guitar? Prelude by Bach and Sound of Bells
What is your favorite food? I like all food.
What are some of your hobbies outside the guitar? I play tennis
Do you have any pets? Yes, a rescue dog named Jooney
What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a scientist and invent the first working time machine.
Are there any past performances that stand out to you the most? The talent show in 5th grade, I played Sueno, which I thought was a pretty challenging piece at the time.

Parent Spotlight: Deepika

Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
Music facilitates all round learning for kids. It enhances skills that children need in other areas, since it involves more than fingers playing the instrument. The child has to tap into multiple skill sets simultaneously when learning, I think that's important for brain development.

What advice do you have for parents just starting out at CCM?
I think initially it's easy to get caught up in wanting your child to do their best and push them to work harder at practice. It works better if you take a step back, and let them take the lead in their musical education.

How has guitar impacted your child's life?
Meran started playing guitar at 6. I chose the instrument for him, because I love the sound of guitar. I was prepared for him to say that he didn't like the instrument and want to try something else. I was pleasantly surprised when he really took to it. It's given Meran a strong focus on doing something positive that he enjoys. He loves playing the guitar. He's very committed to furthering his music education and practices often on his own accord.

Zak Werdegar - Strumming for Vets Fundraiser

For the past two years, CCM student Zak Werdegar has been volunteering his time each week teaching guitar to war veterans at the Menlo Park division of Palo Alto VA Hospital. The guitars that the veterans currently use are close to unplayable, and Zak wanted to set out and raise money to get new instruments for them. You can check out Zak's fantastic promotional video below and can donate to his gofundme page here:

Everyone at the California Conservatory is incredibly proud of the work Zak is doing in the community and look forward to hearing the veterans play on their new instruments!

In the video, Zak is performing a movement from Andrew York's piece, Equations of Beauty.  Zak currently studies with Brad Pupa at our Redwood City location.

September 2017 Students of the Month

Congratulations to the September 2017 Students of the month Suvan and Asha Agarwal. Suvan and Asha study guitar at CCM's Santa Clara location. Suvan and Asha have both been studying guitar for most of their lives and it shows each time they come to their lessons and perform on stage. Keep up the amazing work!

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Asha Agarwal

Q: How old are you?  
A: 12 years old
Q: How long have you been playing guitar?  
A: 9 years
Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Chris Mallett
Q: What pieces are you currently working on?
A: Adelita and Lagrima by Francisco Tarrega and Tarantelle by Johann Kaspar Mertz
Q: What is your favorite piece to play on guitar?
A: Tarantelle
Q: What is your favorite food?  
A: Seafood
Q: What are some of your hobbies outside the guitar?  
A: Competitive swimming, reading, sailing, and hanging out with friends.
Q: Do you have any pets?  
A: We have 6 chickens. 
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?  
A: Wildlife biologist
Q: Are there any past performances that stand out to you the most?  
A: I performed in a talent show in front of my whole middle school.  It was a little scary, but I did really well.

Suvan Agarwal

Q: What is your name? 
A: Suvan Agarwal
Q: How old are you?
A: 16 years old
Q: Who is your guitar teacher?
A: Alexandra
Q: How long have you been playing guitar?
A: 11 1/2 years
Q: What pieces are you working on? 
A: Tarantelle by Mertz, Capriccio by Mertz, Allegro, BWV 998 by Bach, 3 Pieces for Guitar by Carlos Chavez
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Japanese food
Q: What do you love most about playing guitar?
A: I love the sound of the music, and the satisfaction of playing a piece right.
Q: Who are your top 3 favorite guitarists?
A: John Williams, Pepe Romero, Xavier Jara
Q: What do you plan to major in college?
A: Classical Guitar and maybe either engineering or history
Q: Tell us about any performances/masterclasses you have coming up.
A: I have a masterclass with Xavier Jara in February, the Junior Bach festival audition in January, and a recital in October.
Q: What advice would you give to a guitarist looking to improve quickly and take their playing to the next level? 
A: I would say watch lots of performances on Youtube and in real life, and do a lot of slow practice while focusing on the left hand.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a guitarist?
A: The hardest part of being a guitarist is worrying about your nails, and being nervous before a performance.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a musician? 
A: The best part of being a musician is feeling satisfied after performing well.
Q: Who is your favorite composer? 
A: My favorite composers are J.S. Bach and Joaquin Rodrigo.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not playing the guitar?
A: I like to cook, eat, watch movies, and hang out with friends.
Q: Where do you see guitar taking you in the future?
A: I hope to study guitar in college and become a guitar performer/teacher.


Diana Kunze, Parent Spotlight

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of Suvan accomplishing?  
A: I am very proud of Suvan for putting so much time and effort into his playing.  He works really hard on his pieces and spends at least 2 hours a day practicing, but not at my urging.  He wants to be a better guitarist and knows that practice is the only way to make that happen and I am proud that he understands that.  
Q: What are you most proud of Asha accomplishing?
A: I am proud of Asha for becoming a really confident guitar player. She loves learning new pieces and she never complains about something being "too difficult"  Her confidence makes her thrive and she always wants a challenge.  Sometimes she will sight read a new piece on her own so she can surprise her teacher.  She heard her brother playing one of her (and his) current pieces, Tarantelle and she decided she also wanted to learn it.  It is probably the most difficult piece she has ever had, but she sight read most of it and surprised Chris.  I am also proud of her for always wanting to do better in her guitar playing.
Q: You've been a part of this school and community for many years now. Can you talk a bit about what that experience has been like for you?  
A: I've always felt that the conservatory has had a very supportive environment and it's never felt competitive.  The kids and parents always support each other.  AndI feel very fortunate to have seen so many talented kids come through the conservatory.  I have watched Suvan, Asha, and many other kids grow up at the conservatory and they've all become amazing guitarists.  I can't help but feel lucky to be a part of such a community.  I also feel lucky to have met so many wonderful parents at the school, some of whom I've known for our whole 11 1/2 years.  We went from talking about kindergarten to now discussing high school classes and college!   
Q: Why did you decide to give your children a musical upbringing?
A: I have always loved music and I wanted to share that with my kids.  I don't think people are born musicians, but I think everyone can become one and I wanted that for them.  I think once you learn music, you don't lose that knowledge and that's special. 
Q: How has guitar impacted Suvan's life? 
A: Guitar has taught Suvan an extremely valuable lesson.  When Suvan started at 4, I had no expectations.-I just wanted him to learn an instrument.   Suvan didn't like practicing when he was very young and it became so bad in middle school that I pulled him out of guitar for a year.  Over that year, he started to realize that he missed playing guitar and asked to start lessons again.  This "break" made him appreciate his ability and made him want to be a better guitarist.  Playing guitar has become his passion and he practices for 2-3 hours a day now.  Guitar has taught him that perseverance and hard work really does make a difference and that is something that he can apply to everything.  
Q: How has guitar impacted Asha's life?
A: Guitar has been a part of most of Asha's life.  As with anything you practice, the more you do, the better you get and she doesn't take that for granted.  Growing up playing guitar taught her that valuable lesson and she has applied that philosophy not only to guitar, but to her school work and competitive swimming. 
Q: What is your favorite piece so far? Fugue from BWV 998. 
A: I never get tired of hearing this piece.

Welcome to our new site!

We are thrilled to welcome you to the California Conservatory of Music's new website!

For the past six years, as The California Conservatory of Guitar, we have brought top-notch guitar education to the Bay Area through private lessons, ensemble classes, group and theory courses, concerts, and visiting artists. As guitarists and educators, it has been a great pleasure to reach so many of our goals with the school: Many of our students have developed a lifelong passion for music; have developed confidence, work ethic, and creativity through music; and have achieved so many distinguished accomplishments, such as college admissions, competition prizes, and performance invitations.  

As musicians, Chris and I have always been driven to collaborate with other instrumentalists: singers, violinists, pianists, etc. It helps one's imagination thrive to hear the other timbres and resonance of these instruments, challenging us not just as guitarists, but as musicians as well. We feel that having more instrumental diversity at the school will help to create an even more dynamic musical experience for the entire community!

We would love to hear your thoughts or concerns as we transition. In the works is a grand reopening - the Mayor of Santa Clara may even join us!

August 2017 Student of the Month

CCM Guitar August Student of the Month.png

CCM's student of the month for August is Safiya Tran. Safiya is a student of Kevin Ayers at our Santa Clara location. She is currently in book three of the Suzuki guitar method, and in addition to her private lessons, Safiya is a member of one of CCM's guitar ensembles. Don't miss the Parent Spotlight below where we asked her father Hoang a few questions as well. Keep up the great work Safiya!

Student of the Month: Safiya Tran

Q:What is your name?
A: Safiya Tran


Q: How old are you?
A: 10 years old

Q: How long have you been studying guitar?
A: Since I was five

Q: Who is your teacher?
A: I started with teacher Mason and now my teacher is Kevin. 

Q: What advice would you give to a guitar student just starting out?
A: The main thing is to have fun. Also listen to your teacher, practice and try your best. 

Q: What piece are you looking forward to playing?
A: Waltz Allegro in Suzuki book 5 because it sounds nice. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about playing guitar?
A: It's fun and you get to create your own way of playing music. 

Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Chocolate. But I like most things except for cauliflower, blue cheese and some types of fish.  

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I am not sure but I want to be able to work with people or animals. 

Q: What is your proudest guitar moment?
A: Everytime I finish a new piece. 

Parent Spotlight: Hoang Tran

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your child accomplishing? 
A: I am most proud of Safiya developing an appreciation and enjoyment for guitar/music. She thoroughly enjoys many aspects of music and playing an instrument has allowed her to have a different perspective compared to singing, dancing etc.

Q: What advice would you give a new parent to Suzuki guitar? 
A: Make sure you and your child both enjoy the process. Be patient, pace yourself, learn and have fun. For me, it was an opportunity to spend time and accomplish something with my daughter. Over time we have developed a nice balance between learning and enjoying. 

Q: Why did you decide to give your child a musical background?
A: I am just happy and blessed to be able to give my daughter the opportunity to gain a musical background, something missing from my youth.  I feel it is a learning experience that she can build upon and enjoy for the rest of her life.  

Q: What is your favorite Suzuki piece?
A: The repertoire of pieces are all new and exciting for us, so my favorite piece is the one we currently work on.

July 2017 Student of the Month

For July we are shining the spotlight on CCM student Alex Youn who is off to start his undergraduate studies at Harvard this fall! We are very proud of his hard work. It was great to ask him some questions about his experience with music over the years, and how he thinks it shaped him. He was also nice enough to share his college essay with us, which he wrote about guitar!


How old were you when you started guitar?
I first became interested in playing guitar when my grandfather bought me a toy ukulele from a Hawaiian souvenir shop when I was 5 years old. After hearing me play my own renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and other songs, my mother decided to enroll me into guitar lessons.

What drew you to taking classes at CCM?
Before joining CCM, I first studied at the Longay Conservatory and the Northern California School of Music. I later transitioned to taking private lessons at my house, and although I learned a lot in those experiences, I did miss the structure and community of a guitar school/conservatory. At that point in my guitar career, CCM provided me exactly what I wanted and more. Quite honestly, joining CCM was one of the best decisions I could have made. The incredible knowledge and support of teachers and the inspiring level of talent amongst students across the board are really second to none.

What are some of your favorite memories with the guitar? Most proud moments?
My favorite memory with guitar, as in the most formative experience I’ve had with guitar, has got to be the 6 weeks I spent at Interlochen Arts Camp during the summer before my freshman year of high school. Before then, playing guitar was burdensome, as I considered daily practices as merely items to check off my daily to-do list. However, Interlochen and the artistic prodigies I met there inspired me to use music as a medium of communication to simply tell a story and express personal emotion in a unique, musical manner. In short, I discovered an intimate relationship with music and guitar that I will certainly cherish forever.

How do you think your musical education has influenced your character over the years?
Over the years, through my experiences with guitar, music has most importantly taught me to remain humble, to be patient, and to think creatively. Music truly is the universal language that has the tremendous ability to connect individuals and bridge communities, and as a musician, I have learned to not take advantage of that power but to instead treat that responsibility of creating music with due respect.

Any recommendations for other students?
Be honest with yourself. We’re all pulled in a variety of directions, and in the midst of that frenzy, I learned that in trying to keep every plate spinning, I had to reflect on how important guitar is for me. Since I profoundly valued music and my experience with guitar, I had to ensure that the work I put in during practices and lessons corresponded with my desire to improve as a musician. If playing guitar ever feels like a chore, I would recommend to stop and reflect on why you even started playing in the first place. Hopefully, you’ll find the same enthusiasm for music you had when you first picked up guitar. But, at the end of the day, just have fun. Play songs you enjoy listening to. Find creative ways to practice. Take ownership of what kind of musician and person you aspire to be.


“We’re still going,” I reassured my mother, as blood welled up through the deep slit that streaked across my fingernail. I’d spent fourteen years filing my nails to achieve the perfect tone and the last six months polishing my repertoire to win this classical guitar competition. Amongst the bustling commotion of tardy passengers in the San Jose Airport, I stood in silence and tried to adjust my expectations. After a flight to Dallas and a trip to the local 24-hour CVS, the clock read 3:00 AM, while I delicately dabbed droplets of Krazy Glue along my nail. Only my mother’s undulating breath and the buzz of the motel lamplight broke the early morning tranquility. Five hours later, as I stepped onstage with clammy hands and a racing heart, a distant memory emerged: being alone.

Unlike most other campers, only two factors—parental persuasion and the possibility of a forgone opportunity—spurred me to attend Interlochen Summer Camp. I wasn’t the next Shostakovich or Angelou or Leibovitz; I never considered myself a true artist or felt especially invigorated when I played guitar. At Interlochen, though, my peers composed multi-movement symphonies in the woods, perfected exotic accents in the shower, and crafted poetry in the cafeteria. Stripped of all familiarity and thrust into a world I initially failed to understand, I asked myself, “How much do the arts really mean to me?”Honestly, at that time, not much.

From day one, I regarded this contrast as an alienating disadvantage. Loneliness led to depression until, on the verge of quitting, I stopped calling home and began to write. One sitting turned into hours, hours into a daily routine. Flipping through my dense journal, I read between the lines and began to see how I had created my own isolation. The genuine artistic passion of others wasn’t a legitimate reason to estrange myself; rather, it was an invitation to see how far music could take me. Gradually, my hours of practicing seemed less tedious, my conversations with campers less forced, being at Interlochen more meaningful. Those six weeks in the Michigan wilderness taught me to be comfortable in my vulnerability, to revel in the unknown.

So, as I stepped onstage at the 15th Annual Texas Guitar Competition three years later, I quelled my nerves by recalling how I could embrace doubt, leave “what’s going to happen?” unanswered, and still be okay. My split nail wasn’t an excuse to quit; it was a ticket to see what I was made of. As before every performance, I sat down, prayed a Hail Mary, took a deep breath, and let my fingers fly. Maybe my Krazy-glued nail helped me focus more on the sound I produced. Perhaps it compromised my tone. I’ll never know—causality is ambiguous like that—but I went home encouraged by the third-place trophy I’d earned and even happier that I hadn’t let a broken nail break me.

The desire to express myself, especially when I can’t find the right words, has always drawn me to classical guitar, which has grown into much more than just a hobby. There’s something about “Danza Brasilera” by Jorge Morel that always makes me groove. There’s something about “Romance” by Johann Kaspar Mertz that gives me all the feels. But, if a “groove” and “the feels” were all I got from playing guitar, I would’ve quit long ago. I can always replace something that brings me joy but never something that has shaped me into who I am. I feel privileged to practice my craft every day because of what it has given me: the knowledge of who I am and a glimpse of who I can be—whether alone or with a broken nail.

June 2017 Student of the Month

Guitar 2017 June Student of the Month

Our June "Student of the Month" is Purav Desai. Purav is a student of Teacher Alexandra at our Santa Clara location and has studied here for almost six years. Purav not only performs on the concert stage but also enjoys going into the community to play for others in venues such as nursing homes. In addition to his weekly private lessons, Purav is also a member in one of our many guitar ensembles.


How long have you been playing guitar?
7 years

Who is your teacher?
Alexandra & Mason

Where do you live?

What is your current piece?
A Musical Pastime by J. Rathgarber (book 6)

What is your favorite piece to play?
Vals Espanol from Suzuki Book 5

What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?
Improving my right-hand technique

What advice can you give a new guitar student just starting lessons?
Learn how to practice efficiently so a student can improve exponentially. 

You recently did an outreach concert at a nursing home, what motivated you to go out and play in the community?
On the occasion of Memorial Day, I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to help bring some fun in the lives of people who've served our country with valor. 

Where was the nursing home located?
Casa Sandoval, 1200 Russell Way, Hayward, CA

Parent Spotlight: Sameer Desai

What made you choose the guitar for Purav's first instrument?
I'm a big fan of flamenco, & was always intrigued by the guitar's versatility in adding that extra zing in almost all musical genres. 

What advice would you give a new parent starting in our program?
The kid has to like the sound of the guitar, otherwise, it is very difficult to sustain his / her interest in the long run. It is also important to expose our kids to listening to different guitar styles. 

How did the parent education classes help with working with Purav at home?
They're most helpful in the initial stages to prevent our kids from forming bad playing habits. 

Music Lessons - Preparation and Confidence

Music Lessons - Preparation and Confidence

Preparation and Confidence

Years ago, a young student came to the school and told one of our teachers they had a “rule” for their class. It seems the student didn’t want to practice clapping rhythms that day. Hilarious as it was to see four-year old making rules for the class (innocently and politely, I should add), the great part was to hear the instructor cut right to the root of the issue. 

“Are you worried that you might not do a good job with the rhythms?” 

It seemed at the prior lesson the teacher, student and parent had worked hard on clapping some rhythmic patterns, but at home, the parent and child had both forgotten how exactly to clap the rhythms and didn't successfully practice it that week at home. (Take notes and videos on your phones folks!). The braveness of this youngster to feel unprepared for the class but to still follow through is not a commonality. Often younger students who feel this way start to resist attending the lessons, which eventually turns into resistance towards practicing at home and even towards their music lessons at large. 

We all have pressure situations in our lives whether they be meetings with a boss, a pitch to potential clients, or a speech at a conference. Being a bit nervous or feeling the pressure in these circumstances is not a bad thing for most of us, it can often be turned into positive excitement. Being unprepared for these occasions, however, feels terrible: you still have the pressure, but in the back of your mind you know the outcome will not be ideal. For a younger student, going into their music class is the infantilization of our professional pressures. Even my high school students who play at an extremely high-level still admit they get nervous playing for me in their lessons.

This is one reason that the private music class presents a wonderful opportunity for our children. If they prepare well during the week, they learn that nerves are not an unhealthy thing as long as the work has been done. They develop confidence in their abilities and a strong work ethic. This is another reason we love doing the student recitals at the school, aside from giving all the students a specific goal for the weeks leading up, it also teaches them how to deal with nerves. And the best way to deal with nerves: PREPARATION.

In closing, parents register their kids in music lessons for a plethora of reasons, similarly, there are a plethora of benefits to studying an instrument, but the most important part taking classes whether they are a beginner or expert is to practice. It seems obvious but try to get yourself or your kids into a routine of practicing every day, even if it is just for a little bit at first. The results of consistency are amazing not just for their playing but also on their confidence, focus and work ethic!

May Student of the Month

Our "Student of the Month" for May 2017 is the great Micah Montgomery. Micah is a very dedicated practicer, who has practiced everyday for almost two years straight - that is the kind of work ethic we like to see! 

Micah is also the first CCG student to win a $5.00 gift certificate to Jamba Juice for reaching 170 practice points in 4 weeks! Here you can read more about Micah, listen to him play, and hear from his mom as well.

Want to some Jamba Juice on CCG? Get your practice challenge chart here or at the school and get practicing!



Micah Montgomery

How old are you?
I'm 7 and a half.

Where do you live?
I live in San Jose, California.

How long have you been playing guitar for?
I have been playing guitar for 2 and a half years.

How often do you practice?
I practice every day. I almost reach to the point where I can get my two-year trophy!

What is your practice routine like?
First, I practice my techniques, like chromatic scales, slurs, arpeggios and reading. Next, I practice my new song. Then, I work on my review pieces.

What is your favorite piece to practice?
My favorite piece is always my new song, which is Vals Español.

Because it's fun to learn something new.

What is the most difficult thing you are working on right now?
The most difficult thing is getting my right arm and my right hand in a good position. And the point of contact.

Do you have any tips for other students on how to practice?
Practice every day. Listen to your mom and your teacher. And don't get into trouble. 

Parent Spotlight: Molly Montgomery

Micah is a very dedicated student and practicer. How do you get him to be so consistent and disciplined?
We set a routine after school. He knows he needs to practice before he can watch TV or play. At first, he wasn't practicing every day. But once he sees how fast he improves when he practices consistently, he is sold! He is also very goal oriented, so the trophies and Jamba Juice cards keep him motivated.

What made you all decide to take guitar lessons?
Micah was the one who wanted to learn guitar, because he really wanted to join the worship team at our church. We asked two of my friends who have their kids here and they all highly recommended it.

What value do you see in enrolling your kids in music classes?
Micah shows his interest in music early on, so we just want to make sure we provide the opportunity to nurture his love for music. It has helped him to become more focused, disciplined and challenged. 

Any things you like about CCG in particular?
We like CCG for its high quality instruction. Teachers not only teach the techniques but also teach kids how to appreciate music. Spring concert and recitals provide students a chance to perform. It's wonderful to see all the families come together to celebrate their kids. It's not just a guitar school; it's a community.

April 2017 Student of the Month

Christopher Winalski.jpeg

For April, the CCG guitar student of the month is Christopher Winalski! A student at our Santa Clara Location. Chris takes lessons with teacher Tim and is a hardworking student who we are all very proud of! Congratulations Chris!

Q: How old are you?
10 years old

Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons?
1.5 years

Q: Who is your teacher?
Tim Sherren


Q: What is your current piece?

Q What piece are you looking forward to playing?
Packington's Pound

Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?
Waltz,   The slide

Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?
Violin, swimming, especially breaststroke

Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far?
Grace notes

Q: What is your favorite food?
Pepperoni pizza and mint chocolate chip ice cream

Parent Spotlight

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your child accomplishing? 

He has really taken to the guitar and likes it.  He practices daily and does not complain about it.  He understands that guitar is something we do every day 

Q: What advice would you give a new parent to Suzuki guitar? 

Practice every day.  Make it part of your lives. Don't practice too late when they're just plain tired, either.  

Q: Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?

Music makes people smart and it's beautiful.  People who can play an instrument are special and can always contribute to others by playing their instrument.   It also gives kids something that to feel proud and special about.  

Q: What is your favorite Suzuki piece?

Allegretto from book 2

March 2017 Student of the Month

Simon Lee - The California Conservatory of Music Santa Clara

This month, CCM recognizes Simon Lee as the March 2017 Student of the Month. Simon is 9 years old and studies with Alexandra at our Santa Clara Location. We are proud of Simon's progress since he started at CCM a little over two years ago and there are no signs of slowing down! Don't miss the short interview with Simon's father, Xavier below. Congratulations Simon!

Simon Lee

Q: How old are you?
A: 9 years old
Q: How long have you been studying guitar?
A: 2.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher? 
A: Teacher Alexandra
Q: What advice would you give to a beginning guitar student? 
A: Listen to your teacher
Q: What piece are you looking forward to playing?  
A: Greensleeves
Q: What is your favorite thing about playing guitar? 
A: Making music
Q: What is your favorite food?  
A: Sushi
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?  
A: Movie director
Q: What is your proudest guitar moment? 
A: Playing for my grandparents
Q: What is your favorite scale? 
A: Chromatic
Q: Who is your favorite Star Wars character?  
A: Chewbacca

Parent Spotlight - Xavier Lee

Q: Regarding guitar, what are you most proud of your child accomplishing? 
A: Persevering through the challenges and getting over the humps

Q: What advice would you give a new parent to Suzuki guitar? 
A: Make a habit of practice and have patience (not saying it's easy)

Q: Why did you decide to give your child a musical upbringing?
A: I wanted him to learn to play an instrument and create beautiful music

Q: Have you noticed a difference in your child's confidence level since starting guitar lessons?  
A: Yes, The recitals help, and he's performed at school functions

Q: What is your favorite Suzuki piece?  
A: So far, Waltz by Calatayud in book 2

Q: Which piece are you looking forward to?  
A: Waltz by Paganini in book 3

February 2017 Students of the Month

This month CCM recognizes siblings, Jayen, Nikhil, and Annika Agrawal as the February 2017 students of the month. They currently study with Chris Mann at our Redwood City location. Each of them started while still in pre-school and we are proud of their hard work and commitment to CCM over the years. At the end of the post, you can also check a short interview with their mother, Reena, on what it's like to have three children in our program and how she balances their practice time. 


Q: How old are you? 
A: 10 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons? 
A: 4.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher? 
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece? 
A: Etude by F Sor
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: I like to do pull offs, hammer ons and grace notes.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music? 
A: I like swimming, skiing, sailing and cooking
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far? 
A: I have been working on keeping my pinky (my "x") in when playing
Q: What is your favorite food? 
A: Waffles, pancakes and eggs


Q: How old are you? 
A: 6 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons? 
A: 3 years
Q: Who is your teacher? 
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece? 
A: Andante from Sonata 17 by N. Paganini
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: My favorite song to play is A Toye.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music?  
A: I like to play soccer, golf, swimming and skiing.
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far? 
A: I have been working on doing thumb circles at the same time as plucking.
Q: What is your favorite food? 
A: Pasta!


Q: How old are you? 
A: 8 years old
Q: How long have you been taking guitar lessons? 
A: 4.5 years
Q: Who is your teacher? 
A: Chris Mann
Q: What is your current piece? 
A: Etude by N Coste
Q: What is your favorite piece or skill that you have learned in lessons?  
A: My favorite piece to play is Calliope
Q: What are your hobbies outside of music? 
A: My hobbies are art, building, chess, skiing and riding my bike
Q: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had in lessons so far? 
A: My most difficult challenge is crossing the fretboard while alternating left-hand fingers
Q: What is your favorite food? 
A: Pasta and sushi


Thank you to their mother Reena for the wonderful insight below!

Q: What is it like to have three kids in the program?
A: The good thing is the kids motivate each other and keep each other going.  It's easier on me because I only have to learn new material once, and it applies equally to the next two children.  It's also very efficient because CCG has been able to schedule their lesson consecutively which means only one trip a week.  And lastly it's been very surprising--they are such different children who have all picked the guitar and who all love it! 

Q: How do you balance their practice/home lesson time?
A: Practice in the mornings before school!  Between work and school, the kids and I all are tired at the end of the day.  Practicing in the morning is highly productive because the kids (and I, after a cup of coffee) are alert and focused.  We can accomplish our objectives in half the time compared to after school practices.  We save the longer practices for the weekends.