Welcome to Upbeat Piano Studio! The studio motto is “Enriching lives through music.” Our teachers approach teaching with the goal of complete musicianship, taught in a step-by-step approach, using popular beginner methods and the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum. Students also learn to play popular and seasonal music of their choice. We deal with each student as an individual and help them to achieve their own goals. We encourage parents and students to communicate openly with us about their goals and repertoire choices. A basic five-subject course includes: compositions, technique, ear training, sight reading and theory. We insist that students complete regular practice between lessons to maximize the value of their lessons and so that they make sufficient progress to keep them interested and motivated. Theory instruction helps students to understand what they are playing and to make music accessible to them. Performing is a very popular part of our program. Student success builds morale and increases motivation and we ensure that students are prepared so that these experiences are positive. There is a Halloween Piano Party, and also a Christmas Carol Concert for seniors and an end of year recital in June. Some students enter in the Kiwanis Festival and there is also an opportunity to enter Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association auditions. Our teachers have had many students successfully participate in RCM examinations: this is geared to student interest and personal goals.
Upbeat Piano Studio Director Melanie Dickson-Smith, RCM Certified Teacher: Advanced Specialist – Piano, Intermediate Specialist – Theory, has been teaching piano lessons and theory lessons in the Greater Toronto Area since 1989 and she has been teaching in the Toronto community of Leaside and the surrounding area since 2004. She is known for her enthusiasm and keen interest in each student’s musical development. This year, the studio is expanding to offer even more services. There are new group theory classes and new teachers to accommodate even more students. Melanie began teaching piano in Leamington, Ontario in 1981 while an advanced piano student. She studied piano with Marion Stuart-Kosmala, M. Mus., B. Mus., A. Mus. (all in Piano Performance) in the 1980s and with Bill Keis, jazz/contemporary pianist, keyboardist, composer, producer, musical director, educator, and author of 488-page book “The Complete Guide To Learning Music” in the 1990s. She also studied theatre at York University and acting at the Banff School of Fine Arts and performed as an actor and singer in community, university and other non-equity theatre productions. She studied pedagogy with James Lawless, ARCT (Piano Performance), LRCT (Piano Licentiate, U of T), Chief Examiner Emeritus, Royal Conservatory of Music. Melanie has successfully completed the certificate program requirements for Intermediate Piano Pedagogy towards the A.R.C.T. Diploma in Piano Pedagogy from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has also attended many seminars and workshops presented by senior teachers and examiners in North America, to keep abreast of the latest innovations in teaching and learning music. She has had many student candidates succeed at RCM practical and theory examinations.
Christine Tsai, B.F.A. in Piano Performance (York University) and BM – Piano Performance candidate (School of Music, San Jose State University (SJSU), CA), RCM Certified Teacher: Intermediate Specialist – Piano, is a Founding Teacher of the National Music Certificate Program (Royal Conservatory of Music) USA, 2007. She is a professional musician and teacher with more than 20 years of experience in teaching piano techniques, theory, ear training, sight-reading, music history, music appreciation and musicianship development. She is serious about providing students with a strong technical foundation as well as developing their musicality. Lessons are tailored to suit each student’s abilities, interests, and goals. Christine is especially gifted at communicating with and teaching children and adolescents. She can teach lessons in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Christine began learning piano at age 5 and a half. At age 16, she taught her first piano lesson. In 1988, she moved to Toronto with her family. She studied with the piano faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1989 – 1992 and continued to teach. Christine relocated to the Silicon Valley in California and lived there for 11 years, where she continued her studies. Her teachers included Hang Li, MM, who was honored with the title “Artists” of Sanremo Festival, Italy and in her undergraduate years in San Jose State, she studied piano with Dr. Gwendolyn Mok. She performed in concert series like piano showcase and Beethoven Center Hours. From 1998 – 2008 Christine taught piano lessons to hundreds of children in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. From 2000 – 2005 at Melody’s School of Music, Cupertino, California, she specialized in group piano classes for young children. At York University in 2011 and 2012, Christine studied with Christina Petrowska Quilico, BM, MS (Juilliard), who is the Professor of Piano Performance and Musicology, and the Head Coordinator of the Piano Department. In the past 6 years since returning to Toronto, Christine has successfully taught students with varying experience, from beginners to RCM Level 10 students, helping them achieve further and pass RCM exams. She has hosted 7 annual concerts and looks forward to engaging her students in the many performance opportunities at Upbeat Piano Studio. She is very pleased to be part of Upbeat Piano Studio and looks forward to working with many students on their musical development.
Erica Tran, originally from Toronto, Ontario holds a Masters of Piano Pedagogy and Piano Performance from Westminster Choir College and a Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Western Ontario; studying under both Professor Ingrid Clarfiel and Professor Gwen Beamish during those years. President of the New Jersey MTNA Collegiate Chapter 2017-2018, Erica has organised groups of students to assist in the New Jersey State Music Conference as well as the MTNA National Conference in Florida 2018. She was also the graduate assistant for the Piano Department 2016-2018 at Westminster and worked closely with renowned pedagogy authors Ingrid Clarfield and Phyllis Lehrer.
As an active member of the Symphonic Choir at Westminster, she had the opportunity to perform famous works such as Ravel’s Daphne’s and Chloe with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic, under the baton of conductors Yannick-Nezet-Seguin, Alan Gilbert, and Charles Dutoit. Erica has performed in Carnegie Hall, David Geffin Hall, and Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
When Erica lived in New York City, she taught private and group piano to an array of students in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Afterwards, Erica lived in Toronto continuing to teach students in multiple music studios in the GTA. She is so excited to be part of the Upbeat Piano Studio and make music together.
David King has been teaching piano students of all ages for over fifteen years. He regularly prepares students for successful RCM examinations and hopes to help all his students form a lasting bond with the piano, that will bring them joy throughout their life. David is also the music director at the Church of the Transfiguration and continues to occasionally perform and compose. David has been helping students achieve their musical goals at Upbeat Piano Studio since 2015 and looks forward to continuing this rewarding endeavour with his new and existing students.
His three recordings of original music are available on all major music streaming services and can also be purchased here
Jennifer Guillen holds a Bachelor of Music from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where she specialized in music history. She has studied with teachers such as Dina Namer and Valerie Tryon and has taken part in numerous master classes, led by well-known pedagogues such as Kendal Taylor and Earl Moss. Ms. Guillen is a former organist and assistant choir director at St. John’s West Toronto, where she had the opportunity to work with autistic children through music. Ms. Guillen has extensive experience teaching students of all levels and ages. Along with her private music teaching Jennifer works as Manager, Candidate Services at the Royal Conservatory of Music She has also been a member of the RCM College of Examiners since 1998. Jennifer taught previously with Upbeat Piano Studio from 2014 – 2020. She is very pleased to return to our team and assist our students progress in their musical talents.
Kiran Basra (Level 8 RCM – Piano and Music Theory) is a BSc. undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. She has over 5 years of experience working with children between the ages of 2 and 9, including children with special needs and English language learners. Previously working at a not-for-profit daycare, she prioritizes excellent education for young children; cooperation, learning self-regulation, and developing a lifelong love of music. She has been playing piano since the age of 4, working first in the Yamaha system before switching to RCM. She is currently preparing for her Level 9 RCM Practical and Theory examinations. While her main love is piano, she has previously played cello and auxiliary percussion in community orchestras. She speaks English, French, and Punjabi, and is passionate about non-Western music, both classical and contemporary. Outside of piano, she is the Senior Copy Editor of the Innis Herald, a University of Toronto newspaper. She is thrilled to be a part of the Upbeat Piano Studio team, and looks forward to instilling her love of music in her students!