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InTune principals Allen Levack, Joanna Shultz and Steven Janisse.InTune principals Allen Levack, Joanna Shultz and Steven Janisse.

UWindsor music alum harmonize for teaching venture

It all started with a pedicure and some creative career inspiration for a group of UWindsor music grads who are now passing on their love of the arts to a new generation of students.

Joanna Shultz (BMT 2011) was meeting a friend who was having a pedicure at an Ottawa Street salon last summer when she got wind of the news that the building would soon be available to rent.

“I had been thinking about opening a music school for a while and this seemed like a good fit,” she recalls. “And then all the ideas started coming together.”

Soon after consulting with fellow School of Music alumni about teaching their areas of specialty, Joanna found herself as the new creative director of InTune – A Centre for Musical Growth, which formally opened its doors in September 2013.

Most of InTune’s teachers are UWindsor alumni and bring a diverse portfolio of talents and professional interests to the table, offering instruction in voice, piano, theory, guitar and bass to students who range in age from young children to adults pursuing hidden talents.

Shultz, who majored in music therapy and child psychology, is accredited by the Canadian Association of Music Therapy; has a diploma in autism and behaviour science from St. Clair College; and holds an associate degree in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Her fellow teachers include vocal instructor Erin Armstrong (BMus 2007), who graduated from UWindsor with a major in performance and did a master’s degree and diploma program in music at the University of British Columbia before working with the Calgary Opera; vocal instructor Allen Levack (BMus 2011), who majored in music and dramatic art; guitar instructor Steve Janisse (BMus 2013) who is pursuing a master’s degree in music theory at Western; and Windsor musician Bradley Merryfield, who attended Wayne State University’s jazz studies program on a talent scholarship.

“We are all pursuing or have completed graduate education,” Shultz says. “So our students can start with us and stay with us through their university music education.”

Because they are also currently performing musicians, the teachers say they can offer their students some personal perspective.

“Every time you get up in front of people to perform your craft you learn something about yourself,” Armstrong says. “These are little pearls of wisdom I pass along to my students—my own life experience. I don’t teach music professionally so all of my students will pursue professional music careers—most of my students study music to help them develop life skills, self-confidence and the kind of discipline that music requires.”

The teachers say that music can be accessible to everyone and they tailor their classes to the needs of each student: toys and short periods of study for little children, practice schedules and continuing challenges for advancing students.

“That’s the difference between learning a few songs on the internet and developing as a musician,” Shultz says. “Working with a teacher guides the student to greater challenges and to those breakthrough moments when they master a piece of music they are working on. It teaches them perseverance.”

The InTune team agrees that they have all had to make their own opportunities in order to pursue music as a career. In addition to teaching at the school, Armstrong continues to sing professionally, runs music camps for children and produces community concerts; Shultz is a special events pianist and accompanist; Janisse continues to perform as a solo guitarist, band member and vocalist around town; Levack is an adjunct professor in the theatre department at St. Clair College and has toured the world performing in opera, operetta and musical theatre; and Merryfield is one of the area’s busiest first-call bassists with a regular gig as a member of local funk/rock/blues band.

“Making a living at music is not an easy thing, you have to be very creative and very diligent” Armstrong says. “There’s a reason for the term starving artist, but it’s very well-known that the arts has a place in a thriving economy. I know personally that music has made me very adaptable in a variety of areas and I’ve been good at other jobs I’ve had because I was able to think on my feet. Music provides these opportunities to learn and grow.”

 In addition to regular music lessons, InTune provides such specialized programs as entrance exam workshops for students auditioning for post-secondary music programs, and March Break vocal camps for youngsters. Visit www.intunewindsor.com for details.