Burlington High School (MA) rising junior and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Koman shares her journey from voice lessons in elementary school to performing at the Hard Rock Cafe Boston with her Real School ensembles Band Aide Inc. and Compliment Break, and how being in bands has made all the difference.The following article is the first installment of our new Student Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School students and their families.
Vocalist, Guitarist, and Pianist Ashley Koman
For any busy high school student, if you're studying multiple instruments and performing in two bands, you know that music making is more than a hobby, it's a passion. Singer, guitarist, and pianist Ashley Koman does all of this and more at The Real School of Music, her musical home away from home. In just the past 3 years, Ashley has studied with some of the premier music instructors in the area, including Vykki Vox for voice, Bill Doss for piano and ensemble, Chris McKenney for guitar and ensemble, and James Towlson for songwriting.
Ashley's hard work and dedication comes with high praise. Vykki Vox, Director of Voice Instruction, describes Ashley as, "a bright light and a testament to and a promoter of what Real School is all about. She has become part of the fabric of our community in the relatively short time she has been with us and has grown immensely as a musician. Ashley has participated in events and showcases and can't seem to get enough of everything we have to offer. In addition, she also won practice madness the first year we ran that program (an annual contest that recognizes and rewards students for the logging the most practice time)."
With this kind of commitment, most would assume that Ashley is always to be found in either a practice room or ensemble studio. But, she manages to have a well-rounded life outside of music, including membership in reading, skiing, and photo clubs. Her favorite academic subjects are English and History.
Ashley and her mom Lisa recently answered some questions about their musical journey so far....
At what age did you start with music lessons and where did you take lessons, and what do you like best about Real School?
Ashley: I started taking piano and voice lessons at Yamaha Music School in Lexington when I was 7 years old. I came to Real School in Burlington when I was 13 years old, because my teacher was about to have twins, and I had outgrown what Yamaha had to offer. Most importantly, I wanted to learn guitar. What I like best about Real School is the atmosphere: it's positive, inviting, friendly, and joyful.
How has playing music made a positive impact on your life?
Ashley: Playing music calms me down when I'm stressed. Playing in a band with others reinforces the importance of collaboration and how good it feels when the group does well together.
You have obviously thrived with music. What do you attribute to your relatively rapid development?
Ashley: Having dedicated, enthusiastic teachers. They have made sure that we work on music that I enjoy which keeps everything fun. They also have adapted their teaching to my learning style, which is a big help. Joining an ensemble was the most significant factor in pushing me to the next level. When you are in a band, everyone is depending on you to do your part well. The desire to practice and get it right increases.
What has been some of your most memorable experiences in music so far?
Ashley: Playing at The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston was great. Watching my friends from the Real School play in an outdoor Battle of the Bands in Winchester was fun. Twice when I performed at a showcase in the Real Room and I didn't feel well, the audience was so encouraging it made me feel happy and comfortable.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to develop their skills?
Ashley: I'd recommend three things: practice, join an ensemble, and listen to as much music as possible!
The final question is Ashley's mom, Lisa. What advice do you have for other parents to help support their child's music growth?
Lisa: Make sure your child joins an ensemble. It will take their learning to the next level. Encourage your child to play multiple instruments - you never know which one is going to be the one that makes everything click. Only you will know if you need to monitor your child's practice time - it is age dependent and depends on how self motivated the student is.
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