Photography: Patrick Cone
Music makes you smarter! So reads a compilation of studies prepared by Park City Arts and Music Conservatory intern Laura Bennett. Included in Bennett’s findings are the following statements: “Children receiving piano training scored 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than students who received computer math training.(1)” “Students with studies in music performance scored 57 points higher on verbal SATs and 41 points higher in math SATs.(2)” “Preschoolers given eight months of piano lessons had 46 percent increases in spatial-temporal IQs [important for math reasoning].(3)”
No wonder Conservatory Managing Director Debra Cook is passionate about the programs she offers. Private instruction is available in voice, piano, guitar, flute, clarinet, saxophone, percussion and acting. Group courses in choir, voice workshops, and performance classes are also ongoing. “We offer a youth conservatory program where the courses are specifically designed to build a solid and functional music theory foundation for instrumental and vocal study,” said Cook. “We turn out students who can compose and transpose music, as well as write new pieces.”
Cook says the Conservatory’s programs enhance music programs offered by area schools. “A student might be taking clarinet in band at his or her school. Here, the student learns how to read notes and build a chord. We have a progressive curriculum where everyone is tested and placed into the appropriate level,” she said, adding that the Advanced Placement (AP) music theory course at Park City High School was recently cancelled.
Cook is also excited about the Conservatory’s affiliation with the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts. Its mission, “to provide high-quality instruction, participation and exposure in the performing, visual and literary arts at affordable rates to all interested persons …”, corresponds to the Conservatory’s own credo. “We are the only affiliated school in the states of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho,” added Cook.
Park City Arts and Music Conservatory is a non-profit organization, allowing it to raise funds for performance in local schools and community venues, as well as providing money for need- and diversity-based scholarships. Funds are raised through course tuition, an annual fund-drive, and private and corporate donations. “We’re always looking for funding, which would enable us to do more outreach into the community,” said Cook. She credits a small corporate grant with making it possible to send internationally acclaimed piano and violin virtuoso Eugene Watanabe, now affiliated with the Conservatory, into area schools, inspiring students to take up or continue their music studies.
Cook is understandably proud of recent and current pupils who have taken their studies to higher levels of learning and performance, such as students who’ve gone on to the famed Julliard School of Music and The Oberlin College Conservatory of Music summer camp. “We have one theater/vocal student getting leads on Broadway now. Another student was recently chosen by a national talent scout to present her work to major studios in Hollywood.”
Cook, and her husband, Fredric William Cook, the Conservatory’s executive director, each bring an extensive background to the Conservatory. Debra is the University of Utah’s Theater Department head for its Actor Training Singing Program; a former conductor of Park City Singers; and a former member of Brigham Young University’s music faculty. She is the chapter president of the National Association of Teachers of Singing; holds a master’s degree in music performance; and has sung opera and performed in concerts throughout the United States. Fredric holds a post-graduate certificate from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and is currently a doctoral student in educational studies in the University of Utah’s Department of Education. Among his numerous credits, Fredric, an actor, director and playwright, has taught at Hunter College in New York; founded and directed the Los Angeles Academy of Dramatic Art; and formed the Alexander Repertory Company in Hollywood. He is a founding member of the Berkeley Repertory Company and has received performance awards from the Los Angeles Dramalogue Critics and Lewisberg College in North Carolina.
The Park City Arts and Music Conservatory is located at 1612 Ute Boulevard in Kimball Junction. For class schedules and information, call 435.649.6292.
Writer Sedona Callahan regrets giving up the violin at the age of 14. Her family, however, does not.
1. Graizano, Amy, Matthew Peterson, and Gordon Shaw, “Enhanced Learning of Proportional Math Through Music Training and Spatial-temporal Training.” Neurological Research 21 [March 1999].
2. College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.
3. Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky, and Wright, “Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship,” University of California, Irvine, 1994.