Bonnie Jantina teVelde, CEO
Bonnie teVelde, CEO, Founder
teVelde Conservatory of Music
A Whole-Brain Music Method
Since childhood, it has been my dream to share the incredible gift of self expression through music with others.
I think that in order to understand who I am, and how passionate I am about music education, you need to know where I come from, and why I love music education so much! Every day I am amazed that it just keeps getting better. Our students are the most amazing group of people I will ever meet, and our teachers are truly my precious children.
I was born with a genetic gift, that through exposure to the right environment of music lessons, resulted in me developing Absolute Perfect Pitch (AP). I was blessed to have parents that instinctively gave me the absolutely perfect environment to foster my gift. I have come to believe that this gift is not rare, and that almost all instinctive/intuitive musicians have it. But that comes later.
Without my parents, and other tragic events that happened in my life that acted as catalysts, I would have never been able to refine my natural talents and abilities. These events now shape every decision I make, every teacher I hire, and every parent interaction I have.
Now through our non-profit, MUSE Arts Education, we can give people with disabilities the opportunity for healing through music. In this chapter of my life, my whole world is about people like Tara Olson, a girl wtih a brain injury that has changed my life. She is one of many that I have worked with that are precious to me. It is because of students like her, and Tina Green, another precious girl with a gift, that I am truly happy every day! I dedicate this story to all of the hero's of my life, including my husband, Pete, who has made me believe that "we" are so much bigger than "I".
Fredrik Boessenkool and Anna Jantina teVelde emigrated to the United States from The Netherlands about 2 years before I was born. They were married in New York, and came to California in 1959. I was born shortly after that, in 1960. The first piece of furniture they bought, when they got to California in a car they bought for $90, was an organ. That tells me how much of a priority it was, to them, to have music in their lives.
When my mother was pregnant with me, she would listen to hours and hours of classical music, and she even went as far as to put headphones on her stomach so I could hear the music more clearly. What a gift she gave me, just by doing that one thing! I believe my father, Frederik, was born with Perfect Absolute Pitch... a trait he often exhibited by playing any song I would come home from school singing. I was always amazed at how he could play anything by ear, even though he was dutch and had never heard most of the songs I came home with before.
As a baby, my parents often played organ with me on their lap in front of them. My mother could read music, and played rather slowly and methodically. My father would jubilantly play his own tunes, and improvise different melodies for hours. I remember my mother telling my father "honey, get off of the freeway", when my father would get stuck improvising on a particular theme for too long. He would always play joyful tunes, mostly in the key of G-flat, or as he called it "6 molls", which, in Dutch, means "6 flats". My mother and father would dance with me around the living room, singing religious songs from the church hymnal with each other, in harmony. When I was a toddler, I remember listening to hours of different classical LP records. I would sit on the floor, with my eyes closed, just imagining different scenarios and stories to go with the music.
At 2 1/2, I was starting to reach up to the organ on my tip-toes. I can't remember a time that I didn't want to play and sing. I would stand in the center of the aisle at church, and conduct the choir from there every chance I could get. I took my first "official" organ lesson when I was 3 1/2. The teacher was a strict church lady, who picked a method I would now choose for a 6 year old, for me. I was expected to learn to read the 10 notes of "C-position" in my first week. Since I couldn't read English yet, (I spoke Dutch at home, and didn't learn to speak English until Kindergarten.) it was an incredibly difficult experience for me, and I still remember feeling totally overwhelmed. I learned on a 3 manual organ (3 rows of keys with different sounds on each), but I was not permitted to touch the top 2 rows, with the pretty sounds, because I was not good enough.
Even though I wanted to play so badly, and had begged for lessons, I quickly got very discouraged. I heard my mother get the news, from my rigid, domineering teacher, that I wasn't good enough and that I probably didn't have any natural talent. She pointed out that I was very unlike her own daughters, who were doing really well. After 1 1/2 years of getting more and more disappointed, my mother finally put an end to the pain and took me out of lessons. Even though I had seven out of seven signs of musical talent, I "failed" in lessons. Nevertheless, I continued to play the songs in the first lesson book, over and over. I eventually taught myself to read music and play "by ear" quite well.
The type of rigid, harsh music lesson I had as a very young child is the type of lesson I want to eradicate in the world for good. Children do not need to be taught to play "perfectly", and they do not need to be taught that "practice makes perfect". These types of attitudes smash a student's self esteem, and destroy the confidence necessary for a student to succeed in music. If your child is in music lessons, please sit in on the lesson every week and make sure the teacher remains 100% positive. There is absolutely no excuse for a teacher being harsh, critical, overbearing, or mean to a student of any age. If you notice a teacher behaving in this way, immediately leave the lesson and find another person. Your child's talent and motivation is precious, and needs to be guarded at all times until you are 100% sure the teacher is loving, kind, and encouraging at all times.
I believe that ALL music lessons, no matter the instrument, need to be gentle, uplifting, and encouraging. They need to show a student how to succeed, with real life examples of the teacher playing, and with empathy for the difficulty of the learning process itself. No student ever stuck with lessons and excelled at music long-term after being berated by a teacher. Whether the student is an adult or a child, they need to be encouraged towards success at every step of the way. This goes double for teaching perfect pitch. Without self confidence and the ability to trust one's intuition, no one can learn perfect pitch. Listening to one's intuition, and hearing the subtle differences between the notes, is how a student begins to determine what to listen for when it comes to telling two notes apart from each other.
The Accident that Changed Everything.
My mother, sister, brother, and I would go to the job site, when my fathe, who was working with his crew as a Landscape Contractor, and bring him lunch during the summer. One day, my sister and I were playing a game of hide & seek, and a worker, who had been drinking, came back from lunch early. At that point he was drunk. He proceeded to jump on a tractor, and put it in reverse instead of in a forward gear. The bucket of the tractor hit the wall I was hiding behind, causing it and the tractor to crush me.
I don't remember much of the event, except that I woke up in the back of my parent's station wagon on the way to the hospital. My mother was a Registered Nurse, and she was telling me I would be ok. I remember telling her I was ok with dying, and that I was sure I would see her in heaven someday. I don't remember feeling any pain, and I felt very calm.
Thankfully I lived. I had severe crush injuries in my lower body, internal injuries, and a broken leg. I ended up being in the hospital for 3 months, in traction, and in a body cast for another 3 months. The man that was driving the tractor thought he had killed me, and drove my father's work truck off of a cliff on Angeles Crest Highway. His drinking and subsequent guilt cost him his life, and his 6 children, their father. (This is one of many reasons I am so passionate about helping kids that are affected by someone else's drug use and drinking.)
As a result of the accident, I received a small settlement from the insurance company. My father had been destroyed financially, because of the accident repercussions and my injuries, so there was no way my parents could afford music lessons for me. My parents petitioned the court to allow them to have access to some of my settlement funds, so that I could have music lessons. The judge granted their request, with a few requirements as to how the money was to be used:
1) They could only purchase a new, high quality instrument.
2) They could only enroll me in an accredited school with the best, certified instructors.
All of a sudden, instead of a grumpy, mean teacher who taught out of her house, I got the best that money could buy in near Hollywood, which was a mecca of wonderful teachers! I chose to play accordion, and got a brand new accordion! I was enrolled in an incredibly fun school, that actually had a float for the accordion students to sit on in local parades! They had an accordion band, and events where I could perform and win trophies!
I got so good at accordion, I auditioned to play for a professional square dancing troupe, at the age of 12. I got the job, and played at the Hollywood Palladium, on TV for the first time! These were the days of Lawrence Welk, and accordion was pretty cool... well, maybe a little old fashioned. (I was a little older than Weird Al was when he learned accordion!) (Accordion, like piano, is a whole brained learning experience, which is why I believe I am still able to learn almost any instrument fairly eaily.)
During grade school my father ended up working at Ambassador College, and I was enrolled in Imperial Schools in Pasadena, which was on the campus of the college. Ambassador College was in the process of building a new auditorium, and when it was completed they bought two hand-made Steinway Grand Pianos. My life was absolutely filled with listening to the greatest of musicians as they came and played in the auditorium. I would sneak on the stage after school, when no one was watching, and play the pianos. At school I was surrounded by excellent musicians, and I played flute in the band and sang in the choirs. I listened to hours and hours of beautiful music of all kinds. This is when my dream of becoming a really excellent musician started forming.
My mother had a very bad heart, and was experiencing severe chest pain in the pollution of Los Angeles, so our family moved to Santa Rosa when I was 12. I had added flute to my repertoire of instruments, and then piccolo and oboe. I loved to play organ, but there was nothing I wanted to play more than the piano. Because good Dutch Reformed Church members only played organ, not piano, it had not been an option to play piano when I was younger. Now that my parents had changed churches, and piano was allowed...even encouraged, I was obsessed with learning how to play it. I would go into the band practice rooms at lunch time, and play and play and play. I would listen to other students and teachers play, and try to figure out popular songs on my own by getting the sheet music.
My First Competition
I found out about a church music competition, and I decided that I wanted to enter. I was such a quiet kid, that when I tried out for choir in 5th grade, the teacher couldn't believe that a child who never spoke more than 5 words all year, could actually sing. But... I decided to learn a popular song by Barry Manilow, based on a Chopin Prelude I loved. It was called "could it be magic?" I never told my parents that I was entering the contest, and I got a ride from my friend to get there. I ended up winning 1st place, and I was told that I had to represent the area in a county-wide competition in a month. I practiced another song like crazy, and got myself to the second level of competition. When I won 1st place again, I was told that, in six months, I would be competing at the State level for an audience of 5,400 people! Talk about motivation!
At that point, I realized this was really serious, and I should probably tell my parents about it. I didn't realize how proud of me they would be... My mother took me to the piano store, and bought me a new Mason & Hamlin console piano. (My sister still has that piano). They got me an amazing teacher, and I spent the next six months, including my whole summer vacation at age 15, preparing a solo (Bela Bartok's Allegro barbaro (1911) Sz. 49, BB 63) for the competition!
It was the most fun and the most purpose I have ever had in my life. For someone who was absolutely the quietest person, anywhere, to play at this level was an unbelievably, almost out-of-body, experience. I ended up not winning the competition, but it took me to a level of playing that I never dreamed I would be able to do.
Although I didn't win at the State Level, I had prepared my first truly advanced piano solo, and I absolutely loved the experience of performing it on stage for thousands of people (6,500 people, to be exact)! I knew that I loved every bit of the experience, from the hours of practice, to the final product. People have asked me if I dreaded the long hours of practice time, (sometimes up to 8 hours a day), and I have to say that I never loved anything more. I knew, from that point on, that I would find my life's purpose in music.
Previous to this, beginning at the 5th grade, I had started playing flute in the elementary school band. I continued to play flute, adding piccolo, during junior high school. When I got to Senior High School, at Montgomery High in Santa Rosa, the band director, Mr. Morgan, asked me if I would switch to oboe. Oboe is a double reed instrument that is incredibly difficult to play, but I just loved the challenge! Mr. Morgan was the most amazing teacher I had in school, period. In addition to teaching band, he was also a licensed pilot, and he convinced the school to let him teach an aviation class. This class prepared us for taking the FAA written exam, and I fell in love with flying. If we got an A in the class, Mr. Morgan promised to take us up in his Cessna 310, a twin engine, sleek, amazing plane! I ended up taking band, aviation, and being the student assistant in his classroom. He took me to my first "Powder Puff Derby", a women's only flying competition in Sacramento, California. What an experience! I was hooked. My 15th year was not only filled with music, but all my extra time was spent at the airport just watching the planes take off and land. (I couldn't afford actual flying lessons, but I dreamed of the day that I could take them.)
My mother was an accomplished opera singer, with a beautiful voice. She first introduced me to her voice teacher, and I found that I absolutely loved to sing, as well. Over the next fifteen (15) years of my life, I had the opportunity to sing in an amazing mixed quartet with my sister, Mike Koontz, and Matthew Hickock. The four (4) of us prepared and performed many Baroque pieces, acappella, for many events with audiences from 500-7,000 people in attendance! What a blast! During that period, my mom became very ill, and passed away of breast cancer in 1975 (when I was 25). This was a huge blow to me, personally, and I went into a very depressed stage of my life.
The one thing that I still had to comfort me was my music. I wrote many songs during that period of time... songs about my mother, songs about God, songs about angels... songs I would record years later on my first CD.
After a devastating divorce, my children and I I went on to use my accounting background to start an accounting firm in Newport Beach. I found that although I loved creating a business, and working one-on-one with clients to show them how to become smart about managing their money and their businesses, I hated the actual work of accounting and tax preparation. I knew it was not my life's purpose, and that there was a higher purpose for me out there. I listened to that inner voice, sold my company, and moved to the Central Coast of CA where my sister, Janet Crabb, was also living.
I really started playing piano and singing, seriously, again. I copyrighted and recorded all of the original songs I had written since I was 18. I was fortunate to work with Mike Coho, from 1994-98, at Zion Recording Studios. This was back in the days when everything was recorded onto studio 8-track machines, transferred to DAT, sent out to a second studio to master, sent to a third company for duplication, etc. (I still shake my head every time I do this entire process for my students inside of an hour... it literally took months from the time I finished recording to the time I had a CD in my hand!) The recording process for 10 songs took me over 4 years to complete. At the time, I thought this was remarkably fast, as it had taken me over 10 years to write them!
My school started as just a sign on a wall
Although I had taught private music lessons to individual students, from time to time, since I was 16 years old, in 1996 I started teaching a few piano and voice students at my home in Arroyo Grande. In 1997, I started a children's choir called "The Little Angels". I remember printing out the letters "The teVelde School of Music" in a really large font, printing them out, and taping them up on the wall in my bedroom. I knew that somehow I was going to start a school, and it was going to change my life and the lives of every student in it.
I opened my first school . . . the rest is history
I leased a small room on Grand Avenue, sharing the building with a collection agency. Probably not the best environment for a fun, happy school with lots of small children coming in for piano lessons... the ladies at the collection agency were not very happy people. After moving the school several times, each time a little better than the last, we finally came to rest at 624 E. Grand Avenue. We only had 3 teaching rooms, but building them was the most exciting time of my life... except for every other time we have built teaching rooms! I just love watching the school grow, because I know we will be changing lives every day!
Since then, we have grown to have 200 students, 12 teachers, 2 apprentices, and 4 tutors. Our milestones as a school and then a conservatory of music are documented below. Many of our legacy families have been with us for over 12 years. Several of our teachers were my students way back when I first started teaching, and it is such an honor to see how they are changing people's lives every day! At one time I had about 60 students, but I have been forced to cut way back on my teaching lately... the conservatory is very demanding on my time. I will never forget my babies... and I teach them and talk to them every chance I get. We have so many capable teachers on board, I'm not worried that they will get the best music education available, anywhere.
I began pursuing advanced degrees in music, and as of 2017 began pursuing a Master's Degree in Music Education and a Doctorate of Music. It is wonderful to see how experiences from earlier in my life has translated into knowledge that made my coursework easier for me. The next part of my life will be spent educating parents and adult students on the importance of a whole-brain learning, and how it changes the brain throughout childhood and adulthood. I will be showing them how my method, SensAPitch, transforms music education into something that inspires ease and love of music from the youngest ages. Learning through my full color, multi-sensory approach inspires confidence and helps students learn the unique sound of every note first. When they know how to hear each individual note, sightreading and playing "by ear" both become natural to them.
Most of my time these days is filled with:
Training teachers to use SensAPitch with music students
Rewriting/recreating our SensAPitch Characters and Lesson Books for Optimum Efficacy
Training teachers to work with students with various impairments and learning challenges, helping every student be successful
Promoting SensAPitch, a Whole-Brain Perfect Pitch music method. I am also developing a method to work with students with brain injuries, which will be called "SensAPitch".
Talking to Dr. Peter Gregerson, of the Feinstein Medical Research Institute on our 5 year genetic study on musical talent and perfect pitch, and the efficacy of our methods in working with each genetic type of talent.
Completing Master Level training in Sound Healing techniques, and building a sound healing facility/center for events in San Luis Obispo
I am honored that you have taken the time to read my story. May our paths cross soon. If you ever see me in the conservatory, please come up and introduce yourself. It is my mission to make our conservatory accessible, welcoming, and nurturing for both students, parents, and friends.
Honors, Awards, Certifications, and Milestones
2019-20: Began complete rewrite and edit of SensAPitch Methodology. Trained 12 new teachers in the art of teaching perfect pitch and the SensAPitch Method for children.
Re-designed the teVelde Teacher Training Method, adding components in hands-on training, student assessment during the lessons, and integrating SensAPitch with other music methodology for the optimal music lesson for each age of student.
2018-19: Working on a Doctorate in Music Education, with a focus on Sound Healing, Music Therapy,
2017: Started the design of a five (5) Year SensAPitch (tm) efficacy study under Dr. Peter Gregerson, of the Feinstein Medical Research Institute in New York City, NY. With 12 teachers, and 200 students participating, this is the largest perfect pitch education study of its kind in the world.
2017: Brought in Wynn-Anne Rossi, co-sponsored by Alfred Publishing, to teach our summer composition camp! Debut concert at the Madonna Inn!
2017: Trademarked the phrase: "Whole-Brain Music".
2016-17: Completed the first versions four(4) books of SensAPitch, aka: The teVelde Absolute Pitch Method (TAP Method), with accompanying CD's, teaching materials, teacher reference book, songbook, and Teacher Training DVD.
2016: Brought in Dr. Kevin and Julia Olson to co-facilitate summer composition camp!
2014: Founded "The teVelde Conservatory of Music", with over 200 students coming to 2 campuses every week! We are continued to grow, and advanced curriculum was being taught for pre-college an college level students.
2013, 2014, 2015: Brought in Dr. Kevin Olson to facilitate summer composition camp, with debut concert at the Madonna Inn.
2013: Expanded the San Luis Obispo Campus to over 4,000 sq ft, adding a concert suite and an upstairs area for advanced piano studies. We have 9 teaching rooms with beautiful Yamaha pianos to learn on. Added a beautiful upstairs waiting room with video feeds of teaching rooms for tired parents to relax after a long day, while their children are learning to play!
2013: Founding Board Member of MUSE Arts Education, a 501C3 non-profit dedicated to providing quality instruments and scholarships for lessons for students with disabilities and severe hardships. To date, MUSE has placed over 30 pianos and given over $35,000 in scholarships to students with disabilities. It is our mission to grow MUSE until not one student in the United States who would benefit from a music education goes without one. We want to bring music education to all students with special needs, because it makes such a real and measurable difference in their quality of life. We want to restore music education in the schools because it simply belongs there, and the benefits are too many to enumerate here.
2013: Became an authorized Yamaha Dealer through Keyboard Concepts! We were chosen by Yamaha as the first school to ever be allowed to become a piano dealer without having to build a full showroom for pianos. Because Keyboard Concepts has been an established Yamaha dealer for 30 years, and is the number 1 dealer in the United States, teVelde students now have access to the lowest prices and the highest value new and used pianos available anywhere in San Luis Obispo county.
2013: Expanded the Arroyo Grande Campus of teVelde Schools of Music, building out 4 additional teaching rooms, a preschool teaching area, and video feeds in the waiting rooms for parents to view lessons.
2012: Opened the San Luis Obispo Campus of teVelde Schools of Music, a 920Sq ft. learning center featuring beautiful teaching spaces, video feeds in the waiting rooms for parents to view lessons, and a beautiful environment for learning with easy freeway access and parking for parents.
2010: Created School of Rock 1 & 2 Summer Camps, intensive music camps that teach 4 instruments and voice, to beginning music students, in just 2 weeks! The camps have become so successful, in 2014 we sold out 12 different summer camps at 2 locations!
2008-2010: Cofounder of "The International Conservatory of Musician Educators" (ICME) with Karen Foreman. ICME is an international adjudication program promoting excellence in music pedagogy. Designed the first national adjudication program for a combination of many instruments and voice. The Mission of ICME is to document the progress, in 30 areas of study, of every music student. These adjudications take place at TM twice per year. This program includes an extensive teacher training and certification program, including the first ever training program for teachers who want to learn to teach students with Absolute Pitch (AP). For the first time, in 2011, many of our students were independently evaluated for AP abilities, and their skill was documented!
2007-2015: Created and Authored the teVelde Absolute Pitch (T.A.P.) Method to teach Perfect Absolute Pitch (AP) (Perfect Pitch) to children, ages 3mos to adult. Created a training program to teach music teachers how to teach AP.
2005: Honored by the Chinese Government for "Contributing to the Welfare of the Chinese People" (The highest award that can be given to a non-Chinese citizen.) This award was given in appreciation for judging and coaching advanced piano students at "The 4th Annual International Piano Competition" in Harbin, China.
2004: Certification Completed "Certified Piano Instructor" by The National Guild of Piano Teachers and The American College of Musicians. Requirements for this certification included teaching at least 20 advanced students, annually, for the period of five (5) years within a seven (7) year period. They were required to pass National programs of ten (10) or more songs, and were adjudicated by Certified Judges from many areas of the United States. Students were judged utilizing criteria including: Professional Performance Presentation, Instrumental Technique, Scales/Chords/Arpeggios, Music Theory, Ear Training, Improvisation, and More. Programs were required to be balanced between Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary Literature. Pieces were judged using 30 criteria in the categories listed above, and students were required to score at 17 or more commendations per program.
1999-2009: Founder and Chairperson of The Arroyo Grande Center of The National Guild of Piano Teachers (NGPT). Hosted Annual Guild Adjudication events for teachers in the South San Luis Obispo and North Santa Barbara County Areas.
1999-2004, 2010-11: Founder of the South County Children's Choir, and The teVelde Children's Choir, with choirs in Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria, CA. Choirs focused on creating a relationship between elderly patients and children.
1999-2009: Awarded Honor Roll for Excellence in Teaching every year, for 10 consecutive years, by The NGPT, & The American College of Musicians.
1999: Received International Award for playing 15 selections at the Advanced "D" Level in NGPT Adjudications.
1997: Founded The teVelde School of Music in Arroyo Grande, CA.Offered custom-tailored lessons for whole brain learning for piano, guitar, drums, flute, and voice, All lessons customized to the student's personality type and learning style, and teacher's chosen for the student based on compatibility in these areas. Worked with students with disabilities including: Autism, Asbergers, TBI, Visual & Hearing Impairments, Cerebral Palsy, Auditory Processing Challenges, ADHD, and ADD.
1985-1998: Composed and Recorded a CD of 10 original songs, including piano/vocal/flute works in the alternative Christian genres.
1982: Member of Sweet Adelines International Chorus, Mission Viejo Chapter, that won 4th place in the World out of 500 international choruses from 5 continents. This was a 2 year process of winning local, regional, and national competitions that required monthly weekend vocal seminars, 2-3 rehearsals a week, and extensive outside vocal coaching in all area of vocal development, harmonies, blending, and choreography.
1974-1980: Soloist and Accompanist for the Worldwide Church of God. Chosen to perform at worldwide conventions with over 6,500 members in attendance. Featured piano soloist at international, national, regional, and local conventions and meetings. Accompanist for international choirs with 140+ members, and instrumental and vocal soloists. Featured vocal performer, both as a member of a mixed quartet, for international conventions, as a soloist, and as a choir member. Performed original compositions of piano/vocal/flute solos and duets. Started a children's choir, and performed in many concerts and choirs.
1974: Won 1st place in the Northern California Region, and in the Sonoma County District of Youth Opportunities United (Y.O.U.) talent competition.