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Student Spotlight: Ian M.

For the past 4 years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Ian, who began lessons with us after retiring from an impressive career in the aerospace industry. Wanting to return to the music lessons he began taking when he was a boy, he started studying piano, and eventually voice, with us. While we’re sad to see him go, we wish him well in his world travels and are grateful to have played a role in his music education.

MM: How did you get started with lessons?

IM: I originally took lessons in violin and piano as a boy, but my family moved a lot and I didn’t keep up with it after a while. My older brother played piano as well and he stayed with it, studying classical music all through college and he still plays to this day. I always wanted to get back to playing and once I retired I had more time. Now I’ve been taking lessons for about four years with Molly’s Music, first just focused on piano and then adding voice lessons for the last couple of years.

My family immigrated from England – my father is Scottish and my mother Irish – they met in London at the end of World War II when my father was in the British Navy. We came to the United States after the war, when I was about five years old. My father’s work took us to Boston, then Baltimore, Los Angeles , and finally Washington DC. I particularly liked the west coast and I moved back here as soon as I was old enough.

MM: What kind of music do you like?

IM: I like many kinds of music from classical to jazz to rock and roll. My father liked a lot of different music as well and played jazz like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck which I learned to like very much. I grew up with rock and roll in the 60s and I still love much of that music. I also like the Great American Songbook type of ballads from the 30s and 40s. I must admit I like that kind of music much more than newer music. As a boy I loved watching old black and white movies like Casablanca which had everything – war, adventure, romance and great music like Dooley Wilson playing “As Time Goes By” on the piano at Rick’s Café. There were lots of great songs in the old movies like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Thanks for the Memories,” Bob Hope’s theme song.

MM: How do you share your music?

IM: I have friends and relatives that like to hear me play and see how I’m progressing but I probably need a little more critical audience. I have relatives that live in Upland and one of my nephews plays drums in a high school jazz program. I saw him recently and was very surprised at how great a program they had and how skilled my nephew was. It really makes me wish I’d stayed with music when I was in high school.

MM: Advice for others?

IM: For me to be successful I just keep playing and I set aside that time and do it regularly. Of course when you start improving it gives you that spark to continue because you’re getting results. You have to be committed to it or your attention will flag because it doesn’t come easy and you just have to practice.

I’m particularly thrilled that my voice lessons have taught me to sing on key and I’m just amazed and thrilled by that. I use musicnotes.com software which will play the accompaniment for the sheet music you buy so I can practice singing songs on my computer. I also practice on a karaoke machine. I’m working on “Here, There, and Everywhere” by the Beatles – it’s great to be able to sing those songs that I’ve loved for so long. My routine is to practice singing four days a week for about an hour, and piano six days a week for the same amount of time. I enjoy it enough to make the time for practice.

I’m still working my way through the piano lesson books and also learning to play and sing “Moon River,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Blue Moon.” On the more difficult songs I generally play the song melody with my right hand and chords on my left. It takes me a fair while to learn one song but the next one takes a little less time. I usually need help from my teacher Benjamin on how to position my fingers and especially with getting the timing right, which I always seem to need help with.

MM: A bit about you?

IM: I started my career as a financial analyst in the aerospace industry right out of college at SDSU. Slowly but surely I learned the business and took on ever increasing responsibilities. When I retired I was running a business operation for Lockheed Martin in support of the Trident submarine nuclear missile program.

I was fortunate to be able to retire early and stay in good physical condition in order to travel and play golf. I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer and will be visiting Germany, Italy and France. Occasionally I write articles on social issues published in the Register newspaper and I’m thinking about teaching college business classes part time. I read a wide variety of fiction and I particularly like historical novels and biographies.


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