It was 8AM Wednesday morning. Our meeting was scheduled for 10AM. The phone rings and on the other end of the line our realtor says, “They pulled out of the deal.”

Seriously? The deal we worked on for 6 weeks for a perfect build out, sound-proof walls, 5-year lease has fallen through? We were devastated.

You see, we had been searching for a space to put our music lesson studio for months. Turns out, there aren’t a great deal of spaces that are equipped to house the sounds of piano, voice, guitar and ukulele lessons floating through the air waves.

Our business had been moved more than a handful of times. We just wanted a place to land and call home not only for ourselves, but we wanted a comfortable and high-functioning location for all our amazing students.

We had been everywhere:

Church office? Check.

Church sanctuary? Check.

Kindermusik studio back room? Check.

Office space? Check.

Renting space from other music studios? Check.

Music rooms in a high school? Check.

Dance studio? Check.

We were exhausted of moving the business. Not only had we seen countless spaces over the years, but we also made the drastic change to move the business from the west side of the metro completely across town to the east side after getting married and settling into new home territory.

So, after some tears and frustration, we sat up tall and said, “Let’s get to work. Let’s figure this out.” We called upon our good friends and construction gurus Brett and KT to get the job done.

On Monday, November 26th of 2018 they broke ground behind our home in Lake Elmo to start the creation of our home music studio. Throughout the winter months they created the studio of our dreams literally from the ground up.

To ensure we wouldn’t disturb any neighbors, we took great lengths to sound proof the studio. We hired Bryan Knisley over at Central Acoustics to provide acoustical engineering and help with noise isolation construction.

Double walls with wave hangers in between. Extra insulation. Double paned windows. Sound proof doors. No sound was about to escape from here.

Beyond the creative decisions of paint color, flooring, wall decor, furniture, etc., we decided to upgrade the studio with a Soundcraft 12-channel mixer and mounted QSC speakers in the corners for optimal sound quality. We also installed bass traps and sound panels to gain control over the sound waves.

Finally, after a great deal of searching, we purchased a Yamaha G3 Grand Piano at Keys 4/4 Kids. After playing piano for over 3 decades, finally the instrument of my dreams was delivered!

As Michael and I drove past the location of our supposed-to-be-but-didn’t-happen location the other day, we both were filled with gratitude for the barriers set in front of us to lead us down our meant-to-be path of building this gorgeous studio.

We love this space. Our students and families have a reliable, beautiful place to take lessons. We have finally landed with our feet on the ground and heads held high.

And we are here to stay. Come join us and be a part of our music lessons family, won’t you?

Side note: Michael’s guitar and ukulele lessons are still held at the fantastic Music-Go-Round space in Woodbury. Due to Lake Elmo regulations, we are limited to the amount of students on our property at one time.

Now, back to the music!

The Blues are what I’ve turned to, what has given me inspiration and relief in all the trials of my life.


No matter the age or musical preference of student, studying blues music is always a sure-fire win. Students at AJ’s Music Factory had a blast listening to the blues, playing standard blues progressions and blues scales, and learning the history of blues music during their lab time.

From Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson to Muddy Waters and BB King on over to Keb Mo and our own mid-western favorite Jonny Lang, students got a full dosage of blues musicians.

Knowing that blues month would be culminating with Minneapolis’s own piano/singer/songwriter blues extraordinaire Scottie Miller being our guest artist, we studied the lineage of blues piano players through the years.

Blues Pianist Legends

Following the route of The Great Migration, we started by traveling up from the Mississippi Delta to New Orleans where Professor Longhair brought us his rumba/mambo/calypso flair.

In St. Louis the legendary Roosevelt “The Honeydripper” Sykes contributed to piano boogies, barrelhouse blues with his modern lyrics.

Finally we headed up north to Chicago where Otis Spann brought us into the north for some Chicago blues.

Then came along Scottie Miller bringing his own Minneapolis groove to the mix. Scottie was so gracious to share his time and talents with our students in a two day blues workshop.

Older students were fortunate to learn from the best and receive a personalized and educational concert from Scottie. Younger students created original compositions with Scottie based on their artwork, and let me tell you…they had an absolute blast!

Take a look into our two day workshop with Scottie “Bones” Miller at AJ’s Music Factory.

We’re always trying to inspire kids to love music lessons and learn about all genres of music. From playing and singing the blues to the Beatles, Beethoven to Beyonce we nurture our students to have a well-rounded base of musical knowledge.

For more information on Scottie Miller’s music, check out his website:

AJ’s Music Factory decided to make May “Beatles Month” to have an engaging, light-hearted theme during the hectic last month of the school year. When we started this adventure, I received a great deal of feedback from my students that went something like this:

Student: “But Ms. Andrea, why do we have to study The Beatles?”
Andrea: “Can you name me any Beatles song or tell me one thing about The Beatles?”
Student: “No.”
Andrea: “That’s why we are studying The Beatles.”

Have you seen the video “Do Kids Know Beatles Songs? Classic. Kids’ reactions to “older things” always crack me up. Do yourself a favor and watch it. The kids often don’t realize how many Beatles songs have crossed their ears in their short lifetimes.

Did you know Smashmouth covered “Getting Better” for the movie “The Cat In The Hat?” Or did you know “Blackbird” is covered in “Boss Baby?” And did you know that Netflix has created an entire animation series called “Beat Bugs “with every episode focusing on a story centered around a Beatles song?

Pay attention, people. The Beatles are everywhere.

AJ’s Music Factory students at group lesson week. How great is it to hear them all singing with The Beatles?

As one of the most influential bands of all time, I desperately wanted my students to at least know of The Beatles and be able to call out one (or two!) of their tunes. Little did I know that by the end of the this month 99% of my students reported either loving The Beatles or at least enjoyed learning about them.

Throughout the month students read kid-friendly articles about The Beatles, worked on Beatles crossword puzzles and word finds, listened and analyzed Beatles songs, and they thoroughly enjoyed watching Paul McCartney and James Cordon drive around Liverpool, England to see all the legendary sights on Carpool Karaoke.

“Wait, Paul McCartney is still alive?” Yes, yes he is.

Parker learning about Paul McCartney during his lab time.

Every single student was required to learn at least one Beatles song during May. Favorites of the studio were “Hey Jude,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” “Let It Be,” “Day Tripper,” and “Love Me Do,” to name a few.

But by far, the most enthusiasm surrounded “Yellow Submarine!” 5-year-old student Nolan took his love of this song to a new level learning all the lyrics. Incredible!

Nolan singing “Yellow Submarine.” Awesome job, Nolan!

Vocal students worked on singing “outside the box” with ballads “Imagine” and “Let It Be.” Fostering the artistry of our students is of the utmost importance, and we work to find their truest self in their music.

Valentina capturing her own musical thoughts on Imagine.
Love watching our artists grow in their own unique ways.

Our final group lesson of the year brought on some serious “Beatlemania!” Bucket drumming guru Sammy Foster has created learning content for all levels of students centered around Beatles songs including “Imagine,” “Love Me Do,” and “Come Together.” Our students had a blast rhythmically coming together with mallets in hand and buckets-a-bangin’!

We also had a KAHOOT! competition on Beatles trivia, younger students created floating yellow submarines, and everyone finished off the lesson with a Beatles Photo Booth. How many photo props can one student get in their hand and strategically placed for the picture? The answer…a LOT!

A glimpse into Beatlemania Group Lessons at AJ’s Music Factory!

So, after one month of Beatles exposure, AJ’s students now have an understanding and (most) have an admiration for The Beatles. If there is one thing undeniable, it is that The Beatles created music and a legacy that stand the test of time then, today and always. John, Paul, George and Ringo – thank you for making the world a better place by sharing your musical gifts. Our hope is that in some way, small or large, that we can all do the same.

Good practice habits are crucial to the development of music students. Most other activities have practice built in with multiple hours of training per week. Learning a musical instrument is unique in that a majority of practice happens at home away from the teacher. Therefore, parents are asked to help facilitate the practice sessions.

Here are a few tips to help students have productive practice time at home.


I recently asked a few of my most diligent practicing students, “How do you go about practicing each week?” I heard the following responses:


  • I practice before the bus comes to pick me up for school
  • I practice every day when I get home from school after snack time
  • Practicing is on my daily chores list
  • Practicing is part of my homework assignments
  • I have to practice before I am allowed to use electronics after school


Notice that each student has a specific regimen they follow to ensure they practice their musical instrument. Be proactive about setting aside practice time each day.



Create a welcoming, clutter-free practice environment. Students practice space should be close to family and away from distractions.


  • Practice space should be in a pleasing area of the home. Students will not want to practice if they need to go to the dingy basement or a part of the home where they feel separated from family. Keep it close to “the action” but not in the action!
  • Find a place that doesn’t have too many distractions. Trying to practice next to a blaring television is difficult for a student (and makes for unhappy family members trying to watch their favorite show!)



I often get asked, “How much time should my child be practicing?” Instead of focusing on time constraints, I suggest we focus on goals for the practice session.


  • When practicing a part of the assignment, are there parts of the song or technical exercises that are harder than others? If so, slow them down. Lean into the harder parts. Instead of practicing the song 3X a session or for so many minutes, break it apart into smaller sections with a goal; e.g. “play measures 22-23 at 72 beats per minute 5 times without mistakes.”
  • How do we know if certain parts of the song need more attention? Where did we have to slow down? Where did we hit wrong notes and need to start over? Assess. Think about the notes before playing them. Be thoughtful in practice, and don’t let autopilot take over.
  • Double check to make sure all weekly assignment goals have been obtained.



Students spend less than 1% of their week with me. We cram a great deal of learning into our short window of time, but I need help to ensure practice happens at home. How can parents help their child progress each week?


  • Students (especially younger ones) need you to sit along side them. Help them to understand their assignments, go through the music together and listen to the music they are making.
  • Show them that music is valued in your home. Play music while making dinner. Listen to all genres of music. Take your student to live music events including choir and band concerts, musicals and theatrical productions, classical recitals, jazz clubs, rock shows, etc. Exposure to music can inspire your student by showing them what is capable with perseverance.
  • Encourage them to practice. Practice is not always fun or easy, but celebrating the process of making music along with small triumphs along the way will boost your child’s enthusiasm.
  • Attend studio recitals with excitement. Invite friends and family to attend and support your child’s musical growth.
  • Create at-home concerts! Perhaps the concert is only for parents and siblings. Or maybe a small concert is given when the relatives come to visit. I have had students create recital programs to give out, perform the recital and even make post-recital treats for the attendees. Help them to take ownership of their learning and musicianship.



Some families choose to create practice incentives for their students. If they practice so many pieces, play for so many days in the month or pass through a certain book, they will receive a reward. This strategy has proven to work well especially with smaller children. Often families start with extrinsic motivation, but as students progress in their musical training and knowledge their intrinsic motivation takes over. They want to play a certain song they hear on the radio or they want to sound like their favorite musical artist. In later years of lessons students often long to become better musicians as it fills them with enjoyment, pride and self-confidence.


Remember that learning a musical instrument requires a parent/student/teacher triangle of communication and support to ensure the progress and success of lessons. Please reach out to your student’s instructor if you need any help, guidance or extra encouragement along the way. Practice definitely requires effort and attention, but observing the growth of your child’s musicianship is incredibly rewarding!

Energy was overflowing in our latest Group Lessons at AJ’s Music Factory! Piano and Vocal students built  major chords with help from our Ping Pong Chord Game, we learned about rhythms through Rhythm Produce infused with Rhythm Ladders and Rhythm Cups, and we even did the Sid Shuffle to get moving to the beat! Warning: If you hear this song, you won’t quit doing “The Mammy!”

Take a sneak peak into this week’s group lessons at AJ’s Music Factory:


Want to join in the fun? Contact Andrea at 612.275.1895 or to claim your spot today!

Meet Sam.IMG_2862

Sam came to me as a 3 year old that wanted to learn how to play the piano. His mother reached out and said, “He just really wants to play piano! Do you take on preschoolers?” I had heard about the preschool piano method WUNDERKEYS and opted to give it a try with Sam who would be my first preschool student. I admit I was skeptical at first, but my doubts soon morphed into awe and amazement as this little guy grew into a fine young musician right before my eyes. Week after week Sam came into his lesson ready to learn with his Wunderkeys piano friends Thumbelina, Pointer Panda, Middleton Mouse, Ringo Raccoon, and Pinky Pig!

IMG_2874Wunderkeys is an age appropriate program that allows preschoolers to explore music in a playful, creative environment within a structured curriculum. Students play piano, sing, dance, explore instruments and play musical games in a one-on-one environment with the teacher. When presented in such an entertaining manner, Wunderkeys allows preschoolers to absorb the concept of music and math in a creative, nurturing and fun way!

Throughout lessons Sam developed a sense of rhythm and musicality that has set him up for success in his musical journeys that will carry into his life. He also learned how to be in a one-on-one environment with a teacher and how to be a respectful, attentive student. Take a peek at Sam in action 2 years later. Notice his innate rhythm and focus. So proud of this guy and excited to see what his musical future holds!



What are off-bench activities? We get this question a lot. Why? Because we are offering an exciting, 21st century approach to teaching lessons that is unique and new to music instruction.

The traditional way of piano lessons is that the teacher teaches a concept through songs, the the student goes home to practice, and then they return to show what they accomplished…and on to the next concept. Rinse and repeat.

That is not how we do things at AJ’s Music Factory. 

Instead, students come in for lessons and after we learn new songs and concepts, students get to spend time using all of the technology, games, resources, and activities that are available in the studio. They are reviewing their music lesson in multiple domains: sensory, auditory, kinesthetic. Immediately students are using different off-bench ways to retain and review new concepts. And guess what? They are having FUN while learning! 

Traditional lessons can also become quite lonely. Students frequently do off-bench activities together to give a sense of camaraderie within the studio. Seeing their lesson buddies becomes a highlight of the week!

Very few studios use a format like this, but this is why AJ’s Music Factory students tend to love their lessons. The days of “Do I have to go to music lessons?” have been replaced with “When do I get to go to music lessons?!” Our format supports students in their learning and brings fun and excitement into their lessons that is unique to our studio. 

Take a look at a few examples of AJ’s Music Factory off-bench time:

Reading and internalizing rhythm patterns through Rhythm Cups:

Activities from “Rhythm: Make It Count!” Resource. Here we are feeling where different beats fall within a 4/4 time signature through balloons and tennis balls.

Feeling the beat with Bucket Drumming. We even glow in the dark from time to time!

We often review concepts through game-play. Here we combine note names, durations and mathematics in SLUMBERSAURUS! 

Reviewing terms and concepts through Musical Heads Up! 

Want to experience the new generation of music lessons? Contact us at or 612.275.1895.

Last week students of AJ’s Music Factory participated in GROUP LESSONS. Check out our GROUP LESSONS VIDEO HERE. Students learned rhythmic notation and patterns through the use of common candy names (e.g. Nerds = quarter notes, Snickers = 8th notes) and internalized these rhythms through bucket drumming and vocalization. We also honed our listening aural skills to figure out what rhythms were played and dictated them by laying out our different candies in our “measures” made out of Twizzler bar lines. Also featured in the lessons were Musical Bingo, Heads Up and even a glow-in-the-dark drum party (once it got dark out!)

Music learning, making friends, creating memories, gaining confidence and having fun were all achieved in our group lesson! To learn more on AJ’s Music Factory, check out


AJ's Music Factory Bucket Drumming



AJ's Music Factory Music Bingo




Our spring recital featuring piano, voice and guitar students of AJ’s Music Factory is scheduled for May 15th, 2016 @ 1:00 and 3:00. Please join us for a beautiful celebration of music featuring our students! Reception will follow both recitals.

Thank you to all who came out to support our youth in our Shout for Joy concert! Students loved having the opportunity to sing with a full live band and perform for an attentive audience. Every performance that passes allows the growth of confidence in our students…confidence as performers and confidence as they navigate their way through their years of youth into young adulthood. The courage students call upon as they perform extends way beyond music, and we are so honored to encourage this kind of growth in our students. Below are a few moments from our showcase rehearsal and performance. Enjoy!