The lilting of a jazz piano tune, the strum of classical guitar chords or a finely pitched rendition of the National Anthem are all sounds one could expect to hear upon entering Peggy Still School of Music.
The school, whose first location was founded in Roswell in 1988, was born from owner Peggy Still Johnson's strong desire to stray away from typically stiff methods of teaching music to create a unique curriculum ranging in styles from classical to pop and everything in between.
When she was ready, she aligned herself with a circle of talented and multi-faceted musicians, a decision that has ultimately resulted in the school's growth to three locations in Alpharetta, Atlanta and Woodstock, 600 students and 45 degreed instructors.
"I think what sets the music school apart is that we are so diverse with everything from race, styles of music, ages and genres," Johnson said. "I know people who are in the jazz world, the classical world, pop world and the education world, and I connect the dots. I put people with people."
Johnson further distinguished the school from others in the area when she decided to offer voice lessons to children and initiate a groundbreaking curriculum for pre-schoolers. Learning to play both by ear and by notes, kids use color-coded methods in one-on-one, 30-minute sessions with instructors.
Perhaps most significantly, the school also strives to use the fundementals of teaching music as a vehicle to instill students of all ages with the self discipline and self respect that comes from tenacity.
"If the student doesn't really have a goal or a dream, but are just in lessons, then we teach them how to stick with something," Johnson said. "We try to teach them music appreciation and how to be consistent with practice. Music, along with most things in life, is not a quick fix. It's long term work."
A veteran in the music industry and a talented musician in her own right, Johnson also offers her more advanced students a unique look into possibilities of a successful career in the business. From performing at an Atlanta Braves game to being hand-picked by Paramount Pictures to instruct actress Edith Ivey prior to her role as Brad Pitt's piano teacher in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Johnson possesses the experience, skills and connections to take serious musicians to the next level.
Besides offering access to a state-of-the-art recording studio and a scholarship/exam program, the school has enacted a Master Class series which brings industry leaders such as Harry Warner, president of BMI Publishing, and Jeff Cook, vice president of Capricorn Records, to the students for up-close seminars.
"We can't guarantee that they're going to get a record deal or be famous," Johnson said. "But we can guarantee that if they do as we instruct, that they will have a good shot at being noticed and becoming what they want to become in the music industry. At the end of the day, I just want to bring music to people to give them a purpose or fulfillment or a career."