By Rhea Riley
Milwaukee has new access to studies of music and arts thanks to local piano teacher and founder of Hands in Harmony, a local piano program, Annalies Tilley-Grantz who’s recently held an open house for her new piano studio on Oct. 20.
Last year, Tilley-Grantz placed runner-up in the Near West Side Partners, Inc. 2017 Rev-Up MKE small business competition. She then used the money from the competition to help create the new studio in order to offer additional access to piano lessons in the community.
Filled with children and music, the studio’s recent open house set the tone for a new era of creativity and artistic growth. Located on the corner of west Highland Boulevard and 33rd Street, the remodeled neighborhood home turned bedrooms and sitting areas into a homey musical sanctuary.
“For me, I love being able to see a child take on something and succeed,” said Tilley-Grantz about her students. “Being able to be a part of that foundational journey for these children, that’s my favorite part.”
The studio has five lesson rooms, along with a performance space that doubles as a lesson room for competitive students. Each room is equipped with a piano specifically selected a to fit the room’s acoustics and the lessons. The studio has six teachers, all focusing on different ages and talent levels.
Derrick Hahn is one of the youngest and newest teachers at Hands in Harmony. Originally from Cedarburg, Hahn moved to Milwaukee and was in need of new students.
“I knew anytime you transfer locations, acquiring students is very difficult,” said Hahn.
Hahn connected with Tilley-Grantz through an ad to help assist with her growing students across the community. While in Cedarburg, Hahn had seven students, but now will teach 30 students in his own lesson room at the studio.
“When I sit and play my own solo pieces, years and years above what they are playing, I still notice some of the things I say to them and it just makes me feel like I’ve grown,” said Hahn. “It’s a very spiritual feeling.”
Students can start at the earliest at three-years-old, but the program also extends to adult, which includes various lessons like competition training, early learning and even composing.
“It’s not really about performing, it’s more about composing,” said student Betsy Gonwa.
Gonwa currently studies composing and musical theory under Tilley-Grantz. Gonwa began playing as a child, and now she’s focusing on composing her own music.
“What’s so sweet about her (Tilley-Grantz) way of teaching is that she really respects and honors what I’ve created,” said Gonwa. “She doesn’t try to make a suggestion that’s going to take away from what I’ve already created. She helps me to build on it and that takes a particular skill.”
Gonwa has been taking lessons from Tilley-Grantz for over five years. Although Gonwa takes private lessons at Tilley-Grantz’ home, she is still excited to see what the studio does for the children in the community.
“I love that she is supporting families to be able to do this,” said Gonwa.
As a lifetime Cold-Spring resident, Tilley-Grantz has dedicated her life to giving back to the community through music. Tilley-Grantz began expanding her piano lessons when she started the Heart of the City after school piano program. The program cultivated through the collaboration of Highland community schools and the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) partnership for the Arts and Humanities Grant. The grant money provided over 100 students with access to pianos and lessons regardless of their economic status.
“Not every child is necessarily math or science driven. We see a lot of very creative kids,” said Tilley-Grantz. “When they have that outlet to be able to explore and make sound and just create music, which is so much a part of our everyday life, I think sometimes we take for granted.”
Students at the studio look forward to training for their biannual recitals. At the the winter recital held in January, students will center their pieces around music used in winter holidays such as Kwanza and Ramadan.
To learn more or enroll as a student at Hands in Harmony call (414) 882-6349 or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org