The Playground

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Simply Music Teacher – Jy Gronner

Found in: Simply Music Community

jy gronner

When your teacher has been a choir accompanist, singer, classically-trained pianist, conductor, classical piano teacher, singing coach, guitarist, violist, flautist, trumpeter and Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown College alumnus, you know your musical voyage will be an adventure.

Jy initially learned piano from age six “as a way of escaping nightly kitchen duty”, but quickly discovered a deeper love of music, studying classical piano in Oxford, England, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and UCLA, at the same time participating in high school musicals, supporting herself through college and beyond playing guitar and singing, performing in various theatrical endeavors, as well as teaching and coaching musicians and singers.

But it was Jy’s classical background that really framed her view of “proper” piano lessons, and made her skeptical of anything that wasn’t steeped in the traditional values of proper classical technique and reading as the basis of learning to play. At the same time Jy’s image of a piano teacher as “a housewife producing a second income for the family by teaching about ten students” didn’t fit with her own self-image. She taught students on the side, but never felt she fitted in with a profession that she now realizes she was “too proud” to truly embrace. She had always felt a strong drive to share her passion for music and the transformation that can bring, but never found a role that inspired her enough to really immerse herself in.

Instead, she threw herself into almost every other work that you can imagine, from fixing tractors to running corporate retreats, never seriously considering using her musical gifts as a teacher as anything more than a sideline.

So she was surprised to say the least when her sister Sheri, having had just a few years of lessons as a child, without Jy’s manifest success, began teaching a new method that produced hordes of happy players and was fun for her as well. Initially she was very doubtful about Sheri’s new venture, but the more satisfied, self-expressed students she saw emerge from her sister’s studio, the more intrigued she became. Then, after meeting Neil Moore, she began to get a sense of the bigger picture, and what was possible for her and for music education. She could see how this new approach could finally collapse the myth that not everyone was musical, and open up musical doors for all, and at the same time help her find the kind of lifestyle her other ventures had never quite provided.

So, in typical style, she went for teaching in a big way, determined to share Simply Music with as many students as she could, talking to anybody and everybody about her new mission. Working tirelessly, Jy built her studio, Palisades Music School, over several years to 250 students, the largest Simply Music studio in the world, employing several teachers. She explains: “It was exciting to discover a career whereby I would be not only emotionally fulfilled, mentally challenged and artistically stimulated and but also be economically rewarded.

These days, rather than employing teachers, she shares a large commercial location with multiple other Simply Music teachers. She still teaches a large body of students herself, and her studio is always buzzing, but this doesn’t obscure her obvious care for every one of her students. She deals with the day-to-day duties of running a business by staying in touch with her original commitment – to spread the word and share the joy of music. It’s all about the difference musical self-expression can make in the lives of each individual, and Jy does whatever it takes to ensure that every student gets to take home a serving of her musical passion. She’s discovered she’s a natural teacher. “I’ve always been drawn to teaching. Anything I learn I want to teach. If if gives me joy, I just love to share that. I want everybody to feel that joy!”

“…it’s not so much about the music. It’s much more about who am I teaching – who do I get to relate to and who do I get to try to connect with and have them connect with the project I’m asking them to do this time?”

– Jy Gronner

Jy has been teaching Simply Music to large numbers of students for six and a half years. Does the prospect of teaching Ode to Joy for the umpteenth time to yet another group of beginners induce terminal ennui? Not at all. “It’s really funny because it never does – it’s not so much about the music. It’s much more about who am I teaching – who do I get to relate to and who do I get to try to connect with and have them connect with the project I’m asking them to do this time?” Her students relate stories like her singing and playing on their answering machine for their birthday.

Jy’s spirit is a restless one, and change is built into her character. Luckily, she’s been able to experience a great deal of change through the time of her teaching, creating projects, seeing how far she can take her studio, how else she can contribute to the vision. She’s already planning the next major step for her studio. “I’ve always needed to make changes – it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, there’s a point that I get to where I just need a change. What’s nice is that I don’t need to leave Simply Music to change. This is such a great program and so exciting as an opportunity that if you’re looking at it that way, there’s no limit, really. It’s about learning my own limits and pushing them a bit more and seeing what I can create.”

Perhaps we should let one of her students’ parents, Tina Zachariou, have the last word: “Jy has been the most extraordinary piano teacher Natalie has ever had. Jy is a caring and empathetic teacher who understands and listens to her students. She has tirelessly helped Natalie overcome difficulties even after hours, over the phone or at the studio. Jy’s love and passion for music comes across clearly in her teaching which is fresh, fun and inspiring. She relates well to her students and is always supportive and encouraging of their individual piano learning/playing styles. Thank you Jy!”