The Real School of Music Blog

Student Spotlight Series: Joline Maher

Written by Jim Keenan | June 7, 2016

"Music changed my life. I play music so often that I can’t imagine a life without it." 

Diamond Middle School student (Lexington, MA) and rising freshman Joline Maher shares how her passion for the piano and music composition has helped to unlock her inner voice and become more creative, daring, and confident. 

The following article is part of our Student Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School students and their families. 

Pianist and Composer Joline Maher 

After 10 years of music lessons and countless hours of practicing and recitals, some students may get to the point of, 'I've got this piano thing down' and rest on their accomplishments. But for 14 year-old Joline Maher, she's just getting started. By creating her own unique musical compositions, Joline is cultivating a sense of inner confidence, identity, curiosity, and a willingness to take chances and explore. She's inspired to keep growing as a pianist to help support her musical imagination. 

Joline is a member of her school jazz ensemble and has a black belt in Kenpo Karate. Her favorite subjects include science, math, and art. Joline's teacher, Eric Goldberg, commented, "Joline is an excellent student and gifted musician! I look forward to a future of nuturing Joline on her path as a blossoming composer and extraordinary  pianist."

Joline and her mom Delphine recently answered some questions about their musical journey so far.... 

At what age did you start with music lessons, where did you take lessons, and what do you like best about Real School?

Joline: I started music lessons at Yamaha Music School at age 4, and completed the first 8 lesson books in 4 years (Junior Music Course and Junior Extension Course). I started supplemental private piano lessons the age of 7 in addition to the group Yamaha class, and have continued since then.

I came to the Real School of Music in the fall of 2015, after seeking a more diverse range of musical concepts. Before, I had been taking lessons on classical piano music with Kathryn Rosenbach at Powers Music School in Belmont. Beginning in the spring of 2015, I had started to become more and more intrigued by the concepts of contemporary music, and I would experiment with sounds I would hear. I was at that point creating small pieces of music, but with only eight or so measures. Eventually my family and I decided that I could move forward into the area of original composition.

What is the best part of Real School of Music? I like studying with Mr. Goldberg!

How has playing music made a positive impact on your life? 

Joline: The answer I give is the simplest as I can make it: if I did not have music, I would not really have anything going for me right now. Music changed my life. I play music so often that I can’t imagine a life without it. It is almost a drug, if you will. I play everyday to help me get my mind off things that stress me out, and I compose just because I can. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in English class or something, and a solution to a problem I was having with my musical composition would come into my head.

Playing and composing music has also increased my self esteem, allowing me to feel confident in one of the abilities I found myself to have. Before I started composing I was just another student with good grades and such. Music has given me a unique personality and self that I honor and enjoy.

You have obviously thrived with your music studies. What do you attribute to your growth and development?

Joline: I attribute my success in my music to the many years I spent playing piano first. Without the experiences I had over many years (being around 10 years now), I would have no experience and would not be able to use the concepts I learned to create some things that I do now. Secondly, I would like to credit my many different teachers of music that I have had as well as the many different places they have been. I started out with Yamaha Music School, where I studied the Yamaha Music Education System (YMES) books 1-8 and received a large amount of ear training. That helped me develop near-perfect pitch. Next, I would like to mention Ms. Kathy Rosenbach at Powers Music School for being a superb teacher who showed me many ways to look at and play pieces. I would like to send thanks to Eric Goldberg, my current piano teacher, for supporting my every decision on my compositions and leading me to slowly expand my knowledge by leaps and bounds.

What has been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?

Joline: I think that the first time I played an original composition was very memorable to me. The composition was The Mirror, and I played it at my first showcase for the Real School. Many people loved it, and it really boosted my confidence in what I play. Another memory was when I played Mozart’s Fantasy in D Minor, the last piece I played with Ms. Rosenbach. It is a very beautiful piece and I loved to play it, and it was the first time I felt confident while playing a musical piece in a recital. 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to develop their skills?

Joline: I would like to say to them that they should be confident in their abilities. Even if it is small, they do have it. Everyone should be patient with themselves and those around them, and should consider the opinions of others as well as themselves. If I could speak directly to them, I would say, “A plant does not grow overnight, does it? A painting does not get painted in a minute, no? So then, your talent should not fully blossom in a year, right? Let it manifest overtime and do not neglect to tend to it. Enjoy it and believe that it will grow and bless you over time.”

A note for people like me who are more interested in original composition: Mr. Goldberg and I often use the analogy of a painting when talking about the ideas I have. One kind of skill set could be a certain color and a certain tool, we say. For example, seventh chords could be a large, wide and thick paintbrush. Under that umbrella, say, dominant seventh chords could be a rust red, and augmented sevenths a darkish green-yellow. What I would tell these people is that if they only have one tool, the paintings that they paint will have less affect than those with many different tools. And with many tools, you will find that some are similar and others quite different. Diversity is important, and the ability to recognize connections quickly will help very much. You might have a B minor seventh, for example, and you try out b major seventh and find that to sound much better with your piece. That has happened to me a few times when I have created. Don’t be afraid to try out different types of music.

A second note for those who like to compose: I would like to say that you should not be afraid to jam out every week, even every day. Use it as a warmup, use it as a conclusion, do whatever you like. By improvising often, you may find that a specific or general idea shows up over and over, and that you might want to turn it into a piece. Record your improvisations, there may be some that last until four minutes that you really like. And if you don’t like them, keep them anyway. I’ve found that composers often will hate something, come back to it later, and love it. I’ve done it myself with many of the improvisations I’ve done.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to play for as long as you like, and to use the full range of the piano or whatever instrument whenever possible. Don’t be ashamed that some will last less than a minute, when I first started improvising my pieces were less than twelve measures.

The final question is for Joline's mom, Delphine. What advice do you have for other parents to help support their child's music growth?

Delphine: Follow your child's heart! Thank you - in a big way - to Mr. Goldberg for helping Joline find her inner voice.




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