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Music School Takes A Different Approach

Bensalem School of Musical Arts Has Been Open in the Township Since the Summer

If you just listen, you might think it's a Guns and Roses reunion.

But if you look at the screen of Andrew Sumbillo's laptop, you see a 7-year-old girl singing "Sweet Child of Mine" and five musicians backing her up who aren't much older.

And if you look on Sumbillo's face, you see pride.

The 30-year-old Sumbillo is the executive director of the Bensalem School of Musical Arts and the children on the video are some of the 80 or so students at the school.

"More kids are getting lessons these days, and our approach is very different," he says.

"We use a curriculum but we try to help them in their own musical goals."

For instance, he says, not all children want to be concert pianists; some just want to play in a band. Vocal students may not be looking for a long-term avocation; one of his students just wanted to sing at his wedding.

"If you don't do it that way, kids are going to hate it," says Sumbillo. "School of Rock is great but it's just rock. We're well-rounded."

The 30-year-old father of three has been playing piano for about 27 years, being first taught    by his aunt at the age of 3. He's been teaching piano for 10 years.  He also plays guitar, bass, ukelele, drums and flute, and sings.

The northeast Philly resident  started the school above his mother's store in Andalusia in September of last year. He moved to a Bensalem office building at 3070 Bristol Road this past August.

The new location has a piano room,  a drum room and a multi-purpose room.

The school has seven instructors, including Sumbillo, who teach singing, piano, guitar, bass, ukelele, violin, saxophone. flute and most orchestral instruments. Lessons generally cost $30 for a half hour.

"We're about 10 percent cheaper than others," Sumbillo says.

And anyone who walks through the door for the first time can get one lesson for free.

If you look closely at the video Sumbillo shot with his cell phone you might notice that some of the young musicians are wearing different colored T shirts.

"We have a ranking system like with martial arts. We have shirts instead of belts," explains Sumbillo. "Kids ask, 'What do I have to do to get that shirt?' It motivates them."

The students get to play out occassionally at such venues as nursing homes. Next month  they'll play mostly for family members at Grand China Buffet across the street from Franklin Mills Mall.

And, yes, that voice belting out that rock song may just be 7 years old. 

For more information, log on to bensalemschoolofmusicalarts.com.

Claude Johnson January 15, 2013 at 07:02 AM
I like rock and acoustic. I am not great but did play in a church praise band for about two years so at least I could play. I have already bought the guitar control package so please do help me in my guitar lessons...thanks!!

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