Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

BMA was featured as a business profile in the Barrhaven Independent on May 17, 2013. Read the wonderfully written article by reporter Bev Mcrae below, or pick up a copy at the UPS Store in Barrhaven (900 Greenbank Rd) or Ross’ Independent Grocer (Greenbank Dr & Strandherd Ave).

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages - from preschoolers to adults.

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages – from preschoolers to adults.

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

By Bev McRae

On any given evening you will see adults sitting in the waiting room at Barrhaven Music Academy in the Mulligan Centre on Woodroffe Ave. at Longfields Dr. The thing is, they’re not all waiting for their kids. They may be waiting with their kids.

“We have tons of adult students,” said Ashley Martyn, co-owner of the music school. “We have many in piano, guitar and voice who just love it. In a lot of our families, the mom or the dad will take a lesson while the kid is taking a lesson. It’s really fun. The adults enjoy it as much, if not more than the kids.”

Martyn and her friend Nadia Zaid, who both grew up in Old Barrhaven, opened Barrhaven Music Academy in July 2012, and now, along with seven other music teachers, offer lessons in piano, guitar, bass guitar, voice, violin and drums for students of all ages, even preschoolers.

“The Tuneful Tots program is a music education program designed for three to five year olds, that age where parents may not be sure they want to jump them right into private lessons,” said Martyn. “The students don’t specialize in any one instrument in Tuneful Tots, they get used to rhythms and beats, learning lyrics, learning songs – just getting them excited about music.”

Tuneful Tots is taught by Kendra Mathers, one 45-minute lesson a week of singing, clapping, ear training, making music and moving to it. “We have a box of instruments with maracas, tambourines, shakers, rain sticks,” said Martyn. “Everyone takes an instrument and they create simple rhythm first and then it gets more complex and they learn how to keep a beat together and how the different instruments sound like when they’re played all together. It’s a lot of fun, just hilarious. It’s like playtime for them, but they’re having the love of music instilled in them while they’re playing the song.”

At what age are children ready for private lessons on their favorite instrument is a question Martyn often has to answer. “It really depends on the student,” she said. “If they’re super-motivated and willing to understand the practice that it takes to progress at a steady pace; I’ve had students as young as four.”

And of course, whatever instrument the little one plays has to fit. “There are half size guitars, three-quarter size and full size,” Martyn explained. “A little four year old would play a half size guitar. As long as their fingers can reach the four frets, they can play it.”

Other instruments are too big for little beginners, which is why many parents choose to enrol their children in piano lessons.

“With the piano, you just have to be able to press down a key and that doesn’t take much physical effort, so a lot of our students start on the piano because it’s easier and you can get the sound out right away,” Martyn said.

Piano is the most popular class at Barrhaven Music Academy, and the school has teachers available for all levels from beginner to advanced. The average time for a lesson in one of the school’s five classrooms is 30 minutes for a flat fee of $22. Adults or more advanced students may prefer a 45-minute or one hour session.

The music school also has a Youth Choir for singers age seven to 12, led by I.iz Wardhaugh that rehearses one hour a week on Thursday nights, at a cost of $15 per session.

“Most of the members are our students who are taking voice lessons, but we do have some outside kids who have joined just that program,” Martyn said. “It started in January and their debut performance will be at our summer concert in June. Eventually we’ll get them into competitions like the Kiwanis Music Festival.”

Barrhaven Music Academy presents two concerts a year, one in June, another in December, but last September students and teachers also held a special fundraiser for a young Barrhaven woman, Brynn Mclennan, who needs stem cell treatment for her muscular dystrophy.

“It was an outdoor show in the parking lot where the school is, then we had our big holiday concert in December so we’ve had two shows already,” said Martyn. “It was a lot of fun. The students love it. Performing in a concert inspire them, gives them motivation – and they love to see their teachers on stage.”

Getting a child to practice a music lesson and to enjoy music isn’t as difficult as many parents fear, said Martyn. It’s a combined effort on the part of the teachers and the parents.

“We’ve designed the program for every instrument to keep it fresh, keep it interesting, to make sure they’re not always playing the same kind of piece from the same book,” said Martyn. “We like to change it up, maybe throw in not just practical stuff, but some theory, ear training or games just to liven it up and keep their minds going.”

It’s important for parents to understand that a rigorous, hourly marathon of scales every day is not mandatory, a good five minutes is plenty for a beginner. “When they start, that’s all they really need. Just to get into the routine of doing it,” said Martyn.

“It’s quality over quantity when it comes to practicing. A good quality five or ten minutes every day is better than forcing them to practice for two hours on a Saturday when they really want to be playing outside.”

Both owners of the Barrhaven Music Academy have loved music since they were little, growing up in Old Barrhaven and attending John McCrae Secondary School, although Nadia is three years older than Ashley.

“I think I pretty much stole the guitar my mother had lying around the house,” laughed Ashley. “We always had music going on in our house. I did piano when I was growing up and I did trumpet in middle school so I always had music going on in my life. It was never very far out of reach.” Martyn has studied a world of genres and styles, including rock, pop, blues, jazz & classical, most notably under the Canadian guitar guru Anders Drerup.

Zaid has a Bachelor of Music degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University. Martyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Music with honours (2008) from University of Ottawa. Zaid has been teaching for ten years, Martyn for seven, both privately and at another music school. Both love music, and love teaching.

“We actually met working at another music school,” said Martyn, “but we wanted to teach music differently, to put our own stamp on it. In some schools it’s all about exam marks or how fast they can get through a method book. We want the students to really love music. We really want them to succeed so they will love music.”

The Barrhaven Music Academy is located in the Mulligan Centre at 2900 Woodroffe Ave. in Barrhaven The school is open Monday to Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phone (613) 459-6027, e-mail or visit the website at for more information.


9th Annual Kiwanis Idol auditions done, Top 20 to be announced soon

This past Sunday marked the deadline to enter the 9th Annual Kiwanis Idol competition in the National Capital Region.  Contestants between the ages of 13 and 21 came out to perform their two best songs, one a capella and one with accompaniment, in front of a panel of three judges.

“Everyone has done a superb job today. Just getting up on stage in front of a crowd is an accomplishment in itself, especially for those who have never performed before,” explained one of Sunday’s judges, Nadia Zaid,  owner of a local music school and teacher who specializes in piano and vocal training.

The Kiwanis club hosted this year’s auditions at Merivale Mall. Four rounds of tryouts were held over one weekend in late July and again on August 11 and 12. Over a hundred hopefuls came out vying for a spot in the Top 20 that will be selected to move on to the next round.  Each day, tryouts lasted  from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

With the last round of auditions coming to a close, the judges have the tough task of selecting the best ones for the Kiwanis Top 20 Showcase, performed live at the Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre on August 25.

Kiwanis Idol judging panel, (from left to right) Nadia Zaid, Jenna Taggart and Diana Lynn Kyd.

The Showcase, which will not be judged or scored,  gives contestants an opportunity to sing a new set of songs in front of a live audience before the next round of the competition begins.

The top 20 finalists will return to the stage once more at the Orleans shopping centre on September 1, 2012,  to narrow the field down to the Top 10. Those who make the cut will have one last chance to perform, on September 2, before they crown the winner.

For more information on Idol and all the latest updates, check out

The Top 20 is scheduled to be announced shortly, according to organizer Eldon Fox’s Facebook page. Good luck to all those who auditioned!

Save the date! Music 4 Brynn coming September 22, 2012

I’m more than happy to announce a little event I’m helping to organize for good friend Brynn Mclennan this fall.

Music 4 Brynn will aim to raise awareness for Brynn’s stem cells treatments and all those who battle Muscular Dystrophy across Canada.

To learn more about Brynn’s story, visit

So what’s all the excitement about??

  • We’ll be rockin’ a stage with full audio from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm at 2900 Woodroffe Ave in Barrhaven;
  • Our amazing students and teachers will each perform a set of their favorite songs for family and friends;
  • We’ll have food, treats and other goodies to share; and,
  • Brynn and friends will be there to meet and greet everyone as they enjoy the show!

More details to come! In the meantime, mark your calendars!

Bellydance, salsa, burlesque, oh my! Why Summer Sizzle 2012 should make our arts community proud

I had the privilege to catch a glimpse of some of Ottawa’s dance talent this past weekend for the Summer Sizzle Dance Extravaganza 2012 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) in Westboro.  Acts of all shapes, sizes and colours took the stage — from bellydance to tap and everything in between— all to raise awareness and money for a handful of local charities including The Distress Centre, The Snowsuit Fund, Bereaved Families and the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Program.

For a city that has received much criticism in the past for its lack of culture and “things to do” (see Andrew Cohen’s ‘The Unfinished Canadian’ for a recent example), the spectacle held this past Saturday was a welcome night out. The fusion of different styles of dance and music kept things interesting and left the audience to guess what would be jumping out on stage next.

Some highlights:

First and foremost an amazing (bordering on professional) Salsa/Tangoesque dance routine.





A colorful and energetic belly dance number from one of teacher Jalilah’s evening classes at the Studio School of Dance.




Beautiful French-inspired ballet/burlesque combination from one of Carleton University‘s dance students.




Lastly, a drum-pounding and sword-tapping number courtesy of the Ottawa Zaffeh Group. (Zaffeh, a traditional Lebanese folkloric dance and wedding procession, is a lively group routine used to lead the bride and groom into the reception.)



Despite the heat outside, the Summer Sizzle Dance Extravaganza 2012 seemed to be a success.  More importantly, since arts and culture — whether it’s music, dance or fine arts — show the heart of any community, it was great to see it out in full force this past weekend.