One of the hardest things for us when we made the move from California to Utah, was leaving our kid’s music instructors. We loved them. Our kids are taking music education serious from a young age and we want to support them in every way possible.
So when we got to Utah, we began a serious search for music instructors for our children. Not just the neighborhood pianist or hobby guitarist, but serious instructors at the concert levels.
The world-renowned violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker, a Utah native, emailed me with a comprehensive list of who she deemed as the best piano, violin, and classical guitar instructors in Utah. At the top of her list in Salt Lake City was Eugene and Vera Watanabe of the Gifted Music School.
If you’ve listened to Jenny Oak Baker play… you’ll know she’s a credible source. So the Gifted Music School is where we landed.
Other parents who are searching for a nonprofit organization that supports a high-level of music education for their children may find what they are looking for in the Gifted Music School.
This Salt Lake City-based nonprofit helps 582 (and counting) students ages 2-18 get an exceptional music education in the form of lessons and classes each month. But there is more to this nationally-recognized music school.
Here are some important aspects to know:
The Gifted Music School’s History
Since 2008, the Gifted Music School has provided unparalleled music education opportunities to students throughout Utah. The school was able to provide students with a comprehensive music education with the help of scholarships from donors. However, over time, it blossomed into a renowned music education that taught children how to think and learn music. The school is known as a “best-kept” secret in Utah when it comes to childhood music development.
The great part about the efforts of the Gifted Music School is that students became recognized around the country and were accepted to top schools, such as Juilliard and Stanford.
Founders at The Gifted Music School
The founders of the Gifted Music School have been on a mission to expose the children of Utah to exceptional music and include:
- Deborah Moench – As a visionary founding board member, Moench helped support the Gifted Music School’s renown faculty with her teacher training program. This ongoing program helps teachers improve their music education and skills and has been an effective means for helping teachers master and fine-tune their skills. Moench also is an internationally recognized Suzuki violin instructor.
- Eugene Wantanbe – As the string area chair of the Gifted Music School’s Conservatory School, a professional violinist, and founder of the Gifted Music School, Eugene Wantanbe offers students several years of experience and an enriching musical education. Eugene has performed as a pianist and violinist professionally and lectured at several universities. Some of his notable accomplishments include solo tours in the United States, Europe and Canada, performances in the Calgary Philharmonic and the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Space Center. His work and service has also resulted in him receiving the Governor Mansion Artist Award.
- Vera Wantanbe – Dr. Vera Wantanabe founded the Gifted Music School alongside her husband Eugene and has helped create the school’s vision and put together a world-class faculty and administration. As a professional pianist, she is recognized as a Steinway Artist. Dr. Wantanbe also heads the Gifted Music School’s Consevatory School as the piano area chair and has led her students to successfully compete and perform at a variety of events, including the Utah Symphony’s Salute to Youth program.
Another advantage that the Gifted Music School offers is exposure to well-trained faculty. The school hosts several teachers and coaches who are accomplished musicians on a global level and who have been trained at some of the best universities and conservatories in the world.
Faculty members play a variety of instruments, including the viola, double bass, violin, cello and piano. Some notable faculty members include violinist Jakob Hofer and celloist Kelly McConkie Stewart.
A Utah Music School With a Multitude of Options
The Gifted Music School also offers a variety of programs students can leverage for music education enrichment. Some exceptional music programs and schools that students can enjoy include the Suzuki School, which offers private lessons, group classes and parent classes.
Suzuki School. Another important program that the Gifted Music School offers is the Suzuki School. This school is the state’s first official Suzuki school, which is a music education center based on the philosophy and teaching of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki–a Japanese violinist, humanitarian and philosopher.
Suzuki founded the Suzuki Method, which is a renown teaching philosophy and music course of study that supports the idea of teaching children from an early age in a nurturing environment with the goal to educate children on playing music to a high standard, including recommended readings from Suzuki and group performance opportunities.
Unmatched Placement Rates For Students at The Gifted Music School
The great part about the Gifted Music School is that students often achieve success and are admitted into the world’s top musical institutions. Five students alone were accepted to the Juilliard School in 2018 with two students being accepted to both Juilliard and Columbia University.
Regionally, 10 students were accepted into local universities and colleges in the state of Utah in 2018, as well. Some top music schools and academic programs Gifted Music Students continue their music education at include:
- Cleveland Institute of Music
- Colburn School
- Curtis Institute of Music
- The Juilliard School
- Peabody Institute
- Manhattan School of Music
- New England Conservatory of Music
- San Francisco Conservatory School
Some other accomplishments the Gifted Music School has achieved include community-focused projects, such as Challenge the Stats and the Heartbeat Project. The school has also helped students achieve national and international recognition as well as regional and national level honors.
The school has also had students featured on National Public Radio’s (NPR) From the Top program, including violinist Karen Cueva and harpist Angelica Hairston. The school has also procured funding opportunities for its students, including a fully-paid tuition provided to three students from the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation.
The school has also received the Salt Lake Mayor’s Award, the Governor Award and the Salt Lake County Award between 2009 and 2017.
Finding a music school with high standards, a rich curriculum, and world-class faculty to support students is a challenge. The Gifted Music School has pulled it off and given provided lifelong opportunities to its students.
We drive our kids 45 minutes each way to attend the Gifted Music School and have been impressed with every interaction and program. If you’re looking for a Utah music school to attend, you can’t go wrong by trying it out for a semester.