Faculty Feature: Masha Feygelson

Masha Feygelson is a member of our Piano faculty at the Academy, with many adoring students in her studio. You may be surprised to know that she is also a jazz singer, with a Valentine’s Day themed performance coming up on Saturday, February 10th. Learn more about this talented musician in her interview with our Faculty Coordinator Claire Allen.


CAllen: What’s your favorite part about teaching for the Academy?

MFeygelson: What begins as a simple inquiry with our office about piano lessons, grows into such an enriching learning process and human connection. I’ve met and worked with so many lovely people…it’s really a gift to get to know our community through the unique lens of being a music teacher.



CAllen: How did you first fall in love with music?

MFeygelson: I don’t think there was necessarily an epiphany; being in love with music has been a state of being since earliest childhood. My mother realized this and took me to music classes very early on. Even as a three year old, I walked around singing endlessly. Not much has changed!


CAllen: Tell us about a teaching experience you had that was especially memorable.

MFeygelson: So, so many…it’s impossible to choose. As any teacher will tell you, every day with children is full of hilarious comments and questions and discoveries…and there are a thousand little triumphs along the way.


Masha Fegyelson, Jazz singer


CAllen: What are some unique things you do when you teach?

MFeygelson: There’s certainly nothing new under the sun, but one thing I always do is encourage my students to sing! With young beginners, we might make up lyrics to accompany their pieces or imagine scenes and stories that could be set to the music. It is extremely helpful for pianists of all ages and levels to sing note names while practicing – vocalizing musical lines helps in building beautiful phrases and aids memorization.


CAllen: Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them. If not, tell us the type of pet you would like to have.

MFeygelson: My closest brush with being a pet owner was about a month ago, when a field mouse was loose in my apartment for a few days, after I tried to domesticate her…I was sad to see her go, but honestly, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. The truth is, I adore animals and would gladly house everyone from rats to cats to lizards – once I live somewhere that can comfortably house all of us. #TeamCat #TeamDog #TeamAnimal



CAllen: What else would you like our community to know about you?

MFeygelson: Singing is my other musical passion – mostly jazz and pop. After finishing grad school last spring, I can finally dedicate more time to vocal studies and performances. I’m very excited for my first full solo concert on February 10th!





Art Community Outreach Events Music

Musical Instrument Sculpture Project Gets Buzz


In 2008, Mason Community Arts Academy (“MCAA”, formerly known as Potomac Arts Academy) started a green initiative and outreach program named “Instruments in the Attic”. This program takes in old & unused musical instruments donated by generous community members with the idea of bringing as many as possible back to working order for deserving students of all ages to enjoy and play for years to come. Since its creation, Instruments in the Attic has brought in over 850 instruments, returning many back to the community for further use… but not all instruments are able to be repaired. One of the primary goals of the program is to keep these instruments out of the landfill, so we needed to find another green solution for these irreparable instruments.

MCAA thought about how to recycle these instruments in a more artistic and meaningful way, which sparked an idea to collaborate with the Patriot Green Fund (part of Mason’s Office of Sustainability) and Mason’s School of Art. We figured that these instruments could be “up-cycled” into sculpture art projects which told a story, powered by a STEAM approach. School of Art Associate Professor Edgar Endress had an even more innovative idea. He invited Dr. Daniel Lofaro from the Volgenau School of Engineering to assist him in constructing an orchestra of automated sound sculptures using new (and old) media technology balanced with influences of 20th century Russian Constructivist art , amongst other styles, forms, and ideas. Special funding from the Patriot Green Fund helped to facilitate this unique undertaking.


Musical Instrument Sculpture


EVENT: Come and see the “Narrative Machine” sculpture prototypes on display
Overall, this is a long-term project involving several steps. However, the fruits of step one are complete! The sculpture prototypes of this data-fueled, artistic adventure are currently on display in Mason’s Center for the Arts Lobby through mid-February.

The exhibit is getting a lot of buzz, with articles already included in the Center for the Arts newsletter and featured on Mason’s newsletter The George, plus an upcoming article in Mason’s Office of Sustainability newsletter. Read the articles below to learn more, and come interact with these instruments – be a part of “The Narrative Machine”!







Faculty Feature: Tim Carolla

Guitar Teaching Artist Tim Carolla joined the Academy music faculty late last Fall. His private studio is open for new students, and we thought our families should get to know him better. Trained in classical, jazz and more, Mr. Carolla has a lot to offer! Learn more about this versatile teacher and musician through his interview with Academy Faculty Coordinator Claire Allen.


CAllen: What excites you the most about joining the music faculty at the Academy?

TCarolla: I’m excited to join the music faculty at the Academy because I went to Mason and was in the Music Department as an undergraduate student, and it feels great to be back and part of the community. I’m hoping that being around other faculty members and the Music School will provide lots of opportunities to play and perform with peers.


CAllen: How did you first fall in love with music?

TCarolla: I had always had a relationship with music as a listener, but I remember I really started to fall in love with music on a personal level when I discovered some of my parents’ records when I was about 12 or 13 and started to listen to them. Getting into sort of the classic rock era bands like The Beatles and Steeley Dan as well as some more modern stuff at the time like Nirvana and Soundgarden really influenced my early days of playing as well.


CAllen: Tell me about a teaching experience you’ve had that was especially memorable.

TCarolla: I’ve been teaching for almost ten years now, and for about 7 ½ of those years I’ve had the same student. I have recently moved back to Northern Virginia from the Boston area where I was doing graduate school the last four years, and luckily through Skype and getting in a face to face private lesson around the holidays, etc.,  we have been able to continue his studies. Recently this same student and his mother have asked me to start prepping him for moving into music more seriously, including joining some local groups and to attend music school in the future. It’s been a really great and rewarding experience to have as a teacher in so many ways, and it really helped me quite a bit to be able to see what introducing and developing certain concepts and techniques over time looks like over the course of years.


CAllen: What are some unique things you do when you teach?

TCarolla: When I was in school, I was lucky to be able to study both classical and jazz for several years each, so I’m glad to be able to offer lots of different paths for my students. One of my favorite things to do with students who are more advanced is to have them bring in recordings they are fans of and transcribe them together in lessons. Teaching them how to listen for certain patterns that give away chord progressions or common licks helps to develop the ear, and once you get everything written down it’s a great opportunity to talk about single line playing, harmony and stylistic choices.


CAllen: Do you have any pets?

TCarolla: I do not have a pet right now unfortunately. I really want to get an English Bulldog in the near future. My parents had one for years, and I love that breed of dog. They have a lot of character. #teamdog


CAllen: What else would you like us to know about you?

TCarolla: I studied Classical Guitar primarily in my undergrad, but about halfway through I started to become interested in Jazz as well. In Graduate School I studied at Longy School of Music of Bard College, where I found a program called Modern American Music where I could study both, as well as Free Jazz – and you were encouraged to find your own connections in all three fields. It’s a great place to go if you want to focus on something a little out of the box. I had always loved the playing of the great pianist Thelonious Monk. To me, it sounds like nothing I have ever heard, and it’s a musical language all to itself. I made translating his playing onto the guitar my ongoing project and had a very open-minded and great teacher named Joe Morris who helped me a great deal to figure out how to approach and begin to work at the problem. I ended up transcribing a lot of his solos, and later used them to put together some arrangements of his tunes, which I ended up performing at my Master’s and GPD recitals. The Youtube clip that’s a part of this feature is one of my arrangements of my favorite Monk tunes, Light Blue.



Along with private guitar lessons, Mr. Carolla will also be teaching the Guitar Beginnings Class for Ages 5-8 this Spring (starting in February). It’s the perfect way to introduce young children to guitar playing!







Let’s Go On A Violin Adventure!

Violin Adventures is a supplemental group class for students ages 5-12 who are enrolled in regular weekly private lessons, either at the Academy or in another studio. Teaching Artist Claire Allen describes seven ways that Violin Adventures benefits young students. The Spring 2018 class session starts next Saturday, January 27th, so come on board today!

Claire Allen, Violin teacherAcademy Violin Teaching Artist Claire Allen has been presenting the Violin Adventures classes for several years, in both Fall and Spring semesters. Currently, the classes are held on Saturday mornings (usually alternating every other Saturday) in the Performing Arts Building on the Mason campus. Ms. Allen believes strongly that group learning experiences mixed with the standard private lessons are essential for a well-rounded and successful music student, and the following is her list of 7 beneficial elements of Violin Adventures:


  1. Reinforcement of Violin Fundamentals
    Every class begins with basic warm-up exercises and reminders about correct posture, violin balance, and bow hold. In addition to the extra reminders from the teacher, doing these exercises in a group setting allows students to observe their peers. Working together to create beautiful technique and seeing the posture of their classmates can be much more effective than teacher or parental reminders!
    Violin group class for kids
  2. Development of Listening and Ensemble Skills
    Playing music with others is the most important thing we do as violinists. In a recital, we play with the pianist. In an orchestra or chamber group, we play with other string players. Practicing how to play together – which includes listening to the other players, breathing together, and focusing on making a beautiful sound as a whole – is crucial for the development of a successful violinist.

    Violin students practicing
    Photo by Alice Grabowski, Blue Green Photos
  3. Incorporating Fun
    Having a group of kids who love violin means that we get to play lots of games! We use review pieces from the Suzuki Method to play memory games such as the Vanishing Note Game (where we pick one note to leave out of the piece), or silly games such as Hide The Rosin (we hide someone’s rosin in the room, then play louder or softer to help them try to find it). One of my favorite games is to create a treble cleff and staff on the floor using tape so that we can play Musical Note Twister. The students have a blast as they work on their note-reading skills. These are just a few examples of the games we play in group class that we don’t get to do in private lessons.
    Violin group class for kids
  4. Motivation through Peer Interaction
    Kids in group class tend to practice more and are more motivated to continue their lessons. They look forward to seeing their friends in class and at recitals, and they also work harder to keep up with their classmates!
    Violin students performing
  5. Building Friendships
    One of my favorite things over the course of the group class semester is seeing the friendships that form among the students. They go from being polite and shy during the first class to giggling, telling jokes, and hugging each other goodbye during the last class. As a musician myself, I can tell you that some of my closest and most important friendships are with fellow musicians who understand that part of me. Being a musician is a really special thing, and having the opportunity to make friends with other people who share that is vital.

    Violin class students
    Photo by Alice Grabowski, Blue Green Photos
  6. Creating Confident Performers
    Every class, we have “Solo Time,” which gives students the opportunity to perform their solo piece for a small, friendly audience. They practice walking to the front of the room and taking a bow before each performance. With an average of 8-10 classes in a session, this means that every student will get that many opportunities to do a practice performance before their end-of-semester recital. These students become more confident performers with every class!

    Violin student practicing
    Photo by Alice Grabowski, Blue Green Photos
  7. Providing Opportunity to Introduce Theory and History
    Private lessons are packed with information about technique, how to practice, and learning new pieces. There’s simply not time to introduce more than the most basic concepts of music theory or history. Group class provides us with time to talk about harmony and chords, or to watch YouTube videos of famous performers. This also inspires and motivates the students, who always love getting to hear recordings. Depending on the age of students in the class, I may have them draw pictures, make up stories, or do a movement game along with the recording to engage multiple parts of their creativity.
    Violin group class for kids


Here’s what parents and students have to say about their experiences in the class:

“Violin Adventures has been the perfect compliment to private lessons for my young daughter. It includes small ensembles, which you just can’t get by yourself in a lesson. She has formed wonderful friendships within the group with other kids her age who can relate to her violin experience.” – Jennifer, parent

“The group class is good opportunity to child to meet and talk other violinists who are about the same age and level. She gets motivation for playing violin and learning something from seeing other kids playing violin.” – Xuxing, parent

“I like to play violin together with the other violinists in the class. My favorite part is watching and listening to music on YouTube. I learned how to listen to other people for intonation.” – Vickie, violinist age 8

“I like that we do REALLY REALLY fun group pieces. My favorite part about the class is Solo Time because we get to hear everyone’s pieces that they are playing for a recital.” – Lindsey, age 10


Register now and let’s go on an adventure together!




Faculty Feature: Amy Lenk

Amy Lenk is the newest member of our flute faculty! She joined the Academy as a Teaching Artist last summer and is new to the area. Faculty Coordinator Claire Allen sat down with Amy to learn more about her music and her teaching!


CAllen: What excites you the most about joining the music faculty at the Academy?

ALenk: I’m excited to meet new students and to be part of a thriving arts community!


CAllen: How did you first fall in love with music?

ALenk: My family is very musical. I grew up with piano, harp, violin, clarinet, cello, singing and flute in the house. So my love of music began through the musical nurture my parents and older sister fostered. Playing in youth symphony in high school is what really caused me to fall in love with music. Playing in an orchestra makes you feel as though you have a part in something much bigger than yourself and it’s a powerful experience!


CAllen: Tell us about a teaching experience you had that was especially memorable.

ALenk: Most memorable for me is hearing my students perform in recitals. I always feel like I could burst with pride!


A flute


CAllen: What are some unique things you do when you teach?

ALenk: I like to inspire curiosity in students. I show by example and ask lots of questions to get them listening and thinking about how to improve whatever aspect of flute playing we are working on. This engages the student and encourages them to take ownership of their development more than if I were to spoon-feed them all the answers. I also use a lot of food metaphors, because I love food! [laughs]


CAllen: Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them. If not, tell us the type of pet you would like to have.

ALenk: I don’t have any pets now, but I love dogs! #Teamdog


CAllen: What else would you like our community to know about you?

ALenk: Just that I love playing the flute and it’s hard to imagine anything more fulfilling than seeing that love grow in my students!