Mayor John Tory has highlighted the importance of attracting and retaining music talent in the City of Toronto, both culturally and economically. A commitment to the arts and music goes beyond existing musicians. We also need to nurture the talents and efforts of budding musicians within our city. The study of music has many benefits for both child and adult students including: development of areas of the brain involving language, reasoning, and spatial intelligence, enhancing teamwork and discipline skills, providing a means of self expression and much, much more. Fortunately Toronto has a large number of music schools and conservatories to help guide budding musicians in their journey.
Downtown/Central Toronto Music Schools
The Royal Conservatory
Founded in 1886 and located in the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, The Royal Conservatory offers a wide variety of music instruction programs, including over 21 different musical disciplines. The most favoured instrument for students is the piano, as The Conservatory has trained many famous artists, including pianist virtuosos Glenn Gould, as well as pianist and singer Diana Krall. One of their most popular programs is Smart StartTM, tailored to kids aged six and under where child students and their parents learn foundational musical skills such as tempo, meter, pitch, and volume together through educational, movement-based games, and other arts based activities. The curriculum is developed in consultation with its in-house neuroscientist, Dr. Sean Hutchins.
The Conservatory also offers a selection of music appreciation courses to help adults learn more about the music they love. They are offered throughout the day so their students can easily fit them into their schedule.
CBC Radio broadcaster Piya Chattopadhyay said,
People sometimes ask me what it is that makes me sound confident as a broadcaster. I always harken back to my days growing up, learning Royal Conservatory vocal, and standing in front of the examiner to pass each grade. No instrument is more personal than your own voice. To be able to stand in front of someone and sing takes some guts, but it sure does help build your confidence...and of course, there’s no better way to improve your diction than singing.
Established in 2005, The Singer’s Edge is a contemporary music school with a focus on teaching pop, rock, and R&B music. Centrally located in the heart of the city, the school works with singers of all levels from beginners to advanced, with curriculum based on owner and director Brandon Brophy’s book The Singer's Instinct. The techniques taught at Singer’s Edge are the same as the ones used by international recording artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Beyonce.
Nominated as Toronto’s best music school for three consecutive years by Top Choice and Consumers Choice, The Singer’s Edge is the only private school in Canada to have a focused curriculum for contemporary singing. In addition to singing lessons the school also offers both guitar and piano lessons.
Notable former students include multiple Grammy award winner The Weeknd, and Juno Award nominee and SOCAN Urban Music Award winner, singer Alyssa Reid.
Toronto School for Strings & Piano
Founded in 1999, The Toronto School for Strings & Piano prides itself on providing students with access to experienced and well-educated teachers. The school focuses on experience and quality lessons, with a number of teachers who are Royal Conservatory examiners and adjudicators. The school hosts a number of adult students, parents learning alongside their children in the Suzuki Method program, and people who are coming back to music in their retirement.
TSSP Alumnus Emma Fisher on her debut with Canadian Sinfonietta performing Dvorak Rondo. Photo by TSSP.
Centrally located at Bloor and Yonge, The School of Strings attracts many people within the city, and around the GTA, with its wide selection of programming. Artistic Director, Mary Fisher told us:
Several of our students have stayed in the city and the neighbourhood to stick with their music lessons. Some students have been with us for over 10 years. Our lessons are about connectedness and feeling.
Guitar group lesson. Photo by TSSP.
Toronto School for Strings & Piano offers group programs because they recognize how important the peer experience is for students. For seven years the school has run a music, visual art, and dance based summer camp for children aged four to 12. The day camp has a packed schedule filled with art, rhythm, violin and cello classes, orchestra, music literacy, chamber music, fiddle jam, and choir.
East End Toronto Music Schools
Elite Music Academy
Founded in 2001, the Elite Music Academy (EMA) is a music school, instrument retailer, and home of the Toronto Music Camp (TMC) that has private and group instruction for children and adults, beginner to advanced, in various genres ranging from classical to rock. Lessons are offered for guitar, bass, piano, drums, voice, violin, saxophone, and woodwind instruments. EMA boasts being the only physical music school in the city that has consistently taught the Greek instrument of bouzouki since they opened their doors over 15 years ago. EMA wants students to find the perfect teacher, offering no-obligation trial lessons for only $20 so students can shop around for the perfect fit before committing to a semester.
As a performance based music school, the owners spend much of their time and energy booking students to play at cool venues around the city. Donovan Jaymz, Social Media and Promotions, Elite Music Academy told us about their goals and thinking:
We believe that performing live is crucial for keeping the student's interest in music and inspiring them to pursue bigger goals. Our thinking is this: what's the point of taking music lessons if no one is there to appreciate all your hard work?
On the Offbeat Music School
On the Offbeat is an ensemble based, community music school located in Leslieville and run by husband and wife team Michael Skinner and Carissa Neufeld. The duo started the business because they wanted to see more kids playing in bands, Wanderlust festivals, ensembles, and fairs.
Photo by On The Off Beat Music School
On the Offbeat offers lessons in voice, piano, drums, guitar, cello, violin, bass, and ukulele, with the main passion being rock band and string ensemble. Most students favour the piano; however, there is a trend of increased interest in students learning the ukulele. Genres of music taught at the school include classical, majority basics, jazz, improve, pop, and rock. In the summer they offer a variety of camps including Rock Band Camp, Piano and Composition Camp, and combine forces with Artists’ Play to create a Musical Theatre Camp.
The duo feel that,
Communication with other musicians in an ensemble setting is the strongest asset to music education and makes learning an instrument that much more enjoyable. Our goal is to provide private as well as ensemble instruction to enhance communication skills through the language of music.
West End Toronto Music Schools
Classical Music Conservatory
The Classical Music Conservatory (CMC) opened in 1997 at Bloor and Islington, and moved to its Roncesvalles home in 2005. Lessons are taught for over 17 different instruments with a variety of programs and levels of study available for everyone from infants to adults, offering Suzuki Method Baby and Toddler classes for newborns to age three, Musical Preludes classes for ages three to six, a Choir for ages five to eight, Rock Band classes, and the Gleesical program for ages 6-12 (a musical theatre program where the kids create their very own musical). With an approach focused on the needs and preferences of the students, teachers cater their lessons towards whatever genre and level their students want, whether it be classical, jazz, rock, musical theatre or a combination. It can also be geared towards the simple love of playing, or preparation for university auditions.
The Classical Music Conservatory Executive Founding Director, Lusiana Lukman told us about their school:
We have a beautiful and inspiring music school! Our CMC musical home is housed in a century old house with 13 studios and two waiting areas, one with a kitchen with snacks and coffee for purchase, and a counter for kids to do homework while they wait for their lessons. We ensure that learning music is FUN! We are parents too, so we know the challenges and solutions for kids to learn music in a structured but fun way.
Photo by Lowe's School of Music
Lowe’s School of Music
Lowe’s school of Music has been in business for 52 years, serving students in the Junction. Lowe’s provides lessons in piano, guitar, bass, violin, drums, ukulele, banjo, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, accordion, and voice.
The teachers cater their approach to the needs and goals of each individual student as much as possible, with many piano students completing formal grade exams through the RCM system. There is a lot of added pressure on students who are going through some form of audition for an art school or testing, so a focus on helping them master their audition material gives them an edge in confidence in their abilities.
On the other end of the spectrum, many of their students prefer to learn in a more casual style. The teachers always encourage students to bring in music and material that they're interested in learning. In the summer the school has started a "Rock Band Workshop" teaching students to play as part of a group. The workshop culminates in a special performance night at a local Toronto bar.
There is a genuine sense of family atmosphere at Lowe’s, with the staff as its strongest asset. Owner and teacher Clayton Moore told us about the location:
We've been part of the Junction neighbourhood for so long that we now have parents who took lessons here 25 years ago bringing their children in for lessons. We even have a couple of clients who used to teach here, and now their kids are coming in for lessons!