We have a lot of incredible people teaching for our programs, and while our students get to work with them every week, we know that our wider community might not know them!
To remedy that, we are featuring a different teacher on our website each month! And who better to start with than our newest Academy Philharmonic coach, Erin Wells?
Erin has been a part of the Elemental Music community since she was a student….in Elemental Strings! You heard us right – she is our first ever alum-turned-Elemental-teacher! Erin is a new elementary music teacher for SMMUSD, and we are so lucky to also have her join our staff. Learn about her musical journey and find out why she decided to become a music teacher!
Elemental Music: Can you tell us a little bit about your history with Elemental Music, as a student, volunteer, and now teacher?
Erin Wells (EW): I started my Elemental Music journey back in 2004 when the program started. I was in the very first group called Elemental Strings where I had my first orchestra experience. Elemental Music was so special to me over the years. It trained me to be a good orchestral musician. I made lifelong friendships with people that I would eventually reconnect with in high school. Later, I became a mentor teacher for private students. I taught three private students when I was in high school through Elemental Music. I also went back to help volunteer and to work with the Prelude Program on my college breaks. Elemental Music means so much to me and it is a program I love to be a part of.
EM: How did you get started playing your instrument?
EW: I started playing the violin in 4th grade at John Muir Elementary School. I struggled a lot as a beginning violinist. I luckily found Dr. Jo who became my private teacher for the first five years of my playing. I am grateful for her guidance which encouraged me to stay with the violin.
EM: What inspired you to become a music teacher?
EW: I wanted to become a music teacher because of programs like Elemental Music. I was very grateful for my music teachers in elementary, middle, and high school. When it was time for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life, it was an easy decision to become a music education major in college. I knew I enjoyed teaching and helping people, and I knew I loved the violin. Teaching the future generation is so rewarding for me.
EM: What is so special about Santa Monica and the westside that made you come back to teach here?
EW: I was teaching in Stockton, CA for three years and I always knew during my time there that I was the happiest when I was visiting back home. I would always come home during my school breaks and would get super happy when I drove into Santa Monica, and upset when I arrived back in Stockton. It was a very difficult decision leaving my students in Stockton, but an easy decision to come back to my family, friends, and colleagues back home. The music community in Santa Monica is what inspired me to become a musician and teacher.
EM: What is one of your favorite musical memories?
EW: One of my favorite musical memories was my very first Elemental Strings performance at Lincoln Middle School's Auditorium. I still remember we performed Dragon Hunter and Frog in a Tree! Elemental Strings gave me the opportunity to perform on a larger stage. I'll never forget that feeling!
EM: If you could give our students one piece of advice, musical or otherwise, what would it be?
EW: If you ever get frustrated when you are playing, just know that things will get easier. The more you practice the more confident and competent you will feel in the future. Begin with scales and etudes always when you practice! Do sight reading practice whenever you can! I do sight reading with friends in small chamber groups and it helps me become a better musician.
EM: Is there anything else you'd like to add, that you think might be interesting for our community?
EW: Take every opportunity to see live music! It doesn't matter what type of music it is, just go out and see something new! You never know what you'll see, hear, and learn.