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Music at Nord Anglia: the benefits of immersing your child in a musical environment from an early age

20 September 2019

A love of music is within all of us.

We instinctively use music when our children are babies, singing to them when they cry and using lullabies to help them fall asleep. Did you know that you can help your child to take their first steps along their musical journey while they are still in the womb? Playing classical music is thought to even improve the intellectual ability of an unborn baby.

  • Sam Jones - Trumpet
  • Jocelyn Zhu - Violin
  • Alekna Gabrielius - Piano
  • Douglas Marriner - Drums
  • Emily Duncan - Flute
  • Kelsey Connolly - Dance
  • Sam Nester - Trumpet
  • Daniel Stein - Guitar
  • Zeinep Alpan

An abundance of studies have been written over the years, demonstrating the benefits of music to children even at a very young age, but studies can’t truly capture the bond that is gained when a child performs with their peers, nor can they explain the unique experience that each performance brings. 


A study published by the University of Kansas in 2007 showed that students in schools with well-developed music programmes scored an average of 20 per cent higher in math and English, regardless of any of socioeconomic factors that could possibly have influence.  Similarly, when playing percussive instruments, younger children are able to develop their hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills at a much faster rate than their peers.


Music has been proven to develop brain functions as it crucially uses both the left and right side of the brain, helping to massively increase cognitive functions.  Whether the child goes on to pursue music or not, and most don’t, the patience, discipline and other necessary skills developed by music carry over to whatever they decide to move on to and are crucial in allowing them to excel, possibly even giving them an advantage over their less musical peers.


The benefits of music and the science behind it


A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. According to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation (NAMM Foundation), learning to play an instrument can improve mathematical learning and increase SAT scores.


“I’ve had the honor of teaching music to hundreds of children over the past decade. I truly believe that there is no other activity that enriches the whole child as much as music does. Music demands that we are creative, expressive, collaborative and thoughtful, as well as developing our fine motor skills and an awareness of other cultures.”

Cristyn Draper, Head of Performing Arts, Juilliard Lead and Music Teacher, NAISNY



Our approach at Nord Anglia International School New York


Here at NAISNY, all students receive curriculum music lessons from age 2 to 14, twice a week. Our curriculum for music is enhanced by The Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Program, which enriches the high-quality teaching and learning offered in our school with the artistic values, traditions and expertise of Juilliard. Through this program, students develop their critical thinking, resilience, risk-taking and discipline, all of which can be applied to learning in any subject. Students also develop cultural literacy, broadening their understanding of cultural and social history around the world. Our Juilliard collaboration features the following components:

  • The study of different concepts through twelve core works (students study these across all ages)
  • Keyboard skills integrated into learning from age 2
  • Visits from Juilliard Curriculum Specialists and Alumni Artists
  • An emphasis on enabling creativity, listening skills and reflection

As well as our curriculum lessons, we are very lucky to have a wide range of visiting teachers from Juilliard, who lead our one-on-one instrumental lessons. Many of our students already take advantage of this program, learning an instrument such as piano, violin, trumpet, guitar, drum kit, flute or voice. Other instruments are available and lessons could be a small group format, a pair or individual. Lessons are scheduled either during the school day or after school.


Our next event: Artists in Residence Week October 14th – 18th


AIR Week is always a highlight of the school calendar – an opportunity for all students to engage with the arts in a meaningful and fulfilling way, alongside our inspiring team of professional artists. The theme of this year’s AIR Week is “A Voyage” and the students are already preparing for an exciting, immersive week and a spectacular showcase featuring music, art, drama and dance! (Years 3-9, 6pm, Thursday 17th October and 2s - reception 2:30pm, Friday 18th October). Keep in touch with the school’s media channels to stay up to date!


Meet our Juilliard Teachers


These teachers are available to teach private lessons to all NAISNY students. Please contact Cristyn Draper for more details.


Douglas Marriner - Drums

Douglas has shared the stage with some of the world’s most recognized jazz artists, including the GRAMMY® award-winning group Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks, Makoto Ozone, Shai Maestro, Beka Gochiashvili, Rodney Jones and Cecile McLorin Salvant.  Douglas is a passionate educator, and was Director of Juilliard’s MAP Percussion Ensemble.  He has also taught for Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect program and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s education programs and summer schools.  Douglas has previously tutored Rhythmic Analysis at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Greenwich Village and has recently joined the faculty at Bloomingdale School of Music as Director of Jazz Ensemble and teacher of Drums and Percussion.


Zeynep Alpan – Violin

Turkish-American violinist, Zeynep Alpan, started studying the violin at the age of 5 as part of her music therapy treatment for her diagnosis of speech delay and Auditory Processing Disorder. Immediately after being introduced to the violin, Zeynep began to speak and following a year and a half of violin studies, she had her first solo appearance with Vivaldi’s A minor Violin Concerto, after winning the Peabody Concerto Competition.  Zeynep is a New York Philharmonic Teaching Artist partnering with New York City Schools and is on the faculty of music for the Lincoln Center/Department of Education Audition Boot Camp.


As a performer, Zeynep has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic, the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Juilliard Orchestra. Future engagements include a week-long artist residency at Bilkent University and a performance with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey.


Zeynep is the first prize winner in many competitions, some of which include the Juilliard Concerto Competition, the Dorothy DeLay Competition and the National Philharmonic Competition.


Jocelyn Zhu - Violin

Violinist Jocelyn Zhu’s work has taken her across the globe to over thirty countries, bringing features on Good Morning America, PBS, The Today Show, and WQXR’s Young Artist Showcase. A passionate advocate of arts in society, she founded and is the co-director of Concerts for Compassion, an organization benefiting refugees worldwide. Her collaborators and instructors include Catherine Cho, David Finckel,  Alan Gilbert, Hyo Kang, Joseph Kalichstein, and Itzhak Perlman.  She is the recipient of the Juilliard School Career Grant, the McGraw Hill Robert Sherman Award, the National Trustees Grant, the Tarisio Trust Young Artists Grant, and the US Department of State Federal Assistance Award.

Jocelyn has been teaching privately for over a decade, utilizing a blend of the Suzuki and Dorothy Dela methods of teaching.


Kelsey Connolly - Dance

Currently, Kelsey is a principal actor in the role of Meg Giry in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Growing up in Connecticut, Kelsey received training in classical and contemporary dance. While at Juilliard School, under the direction of Lawrence Rhodes, Kelsey developed her interest in choreography and was handpicked to create work for Choreographers & Composers and Senior Dance Production, in which she commissioned original music by Juilliard students and alumni. Her work was also selected and showcased in Choreographic Honors at the Peter J. Sharp Theater in Lincoln Center.


Kelsey was avidly involved in educational outreach during her time at Juilliard.  She was a Gluck Community Service Fellow where she performed in various hospitals and nursing homes throughout New York City, and was a team member of ARTreach's New Orleans Service Project for three consecutive years.


Kelsey graduated from The Juilliard School's Dance Division in 2015, receiving the President Joseph W. Polisi's Artist as Citizen award, as recognition for four years of outreach, given to only one student in each division (Dance, Drama, Music).  In her final year at Juilliard, Kelsey made her professional debut at the Joyce Theater with the Lar Lubovitch Company.


She has attended summer programs throughout the U.S. and Europe, including, Juilliard, American Ballet Theater,  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, LINES Ballet (San Francisco), Henny Jurriëns Stichting (Amsterdam), Les Étés de la Danse (Paris) in conjunction with San Francisco Ballet, and Nederlands Dans Theater (The Hague). Prior to Phantom, Kelsey was a performer at The McKittrick Hotel, as well as an ensemble dancer in Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes®.


Emily Duncan – Flute

Since her undergraduate studies in music, creative writing, and theater at the University of Iowa, Emily Duncan has been a flutist dedicated to collaboration between the arts. In 2016, she performed in the inaugural event for GRIT collaborative, a nonprofit that serves “to provide a platform for interdisciplinary and collaborative conversation” through a blend of dance, visual art, and music. The performance was hailed by the Iowa Press Citizen as “a very structured, articulate marriage of dance, music and art.” Ms. Duncan has also performed in pit ensembles for numerous theater companies, including City Circle Acting Company, Young Footliters Company, and Iowa City Community Theater. In March, she will make her off-Broadway debut in The Signature Project at the Loreto Theater. She is also an avid supporter of new music and has commissioned and premiered new works for alto flute and spoken word and flute and electronics based on poems by Edgar Allan Poe and Marianne Moore.

Ms. Duncan has won awards at many competitions, including the San Francisco International Flute Festival’s Adult Competition, the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition, and the Central Ohio Flute Association’s Collegiate Competition. She has participated in numerous music festivals, including Jim Walker’s “Beyond the Masterclass,” the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, the Marrowstone Music Festival, and the Eastern Music Festival. Emily Duncan is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School and is studying with Carol Wincenc. Ms. Duncan’s former teachers include Terri Sanchez and Nicole Esposito.


Sam Nester – Trumpet

Sam Nester has performed around the world, including Beijing, Paris and Australia. Sam is the recipient of many awards, including the 2016 Brian Boak Outstanding Performer award and the Kevin Spacey foundation Artist of Choice Award. He is currently completing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Manhattan School of Music and serves as the Artistic Administrator of Community Engagement at the Juilliard school.


Gabrielius Alekna – Pianist

The winner of the second prize at the 2005 International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna, Austria, Gabrielius Alekna has appeared as a soloist in Vienna’s Musikverein with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and has been a featured soloist with the Juilliard Orchestra, the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, and Adelphi Symphony Orchestra in New York, Wartburg Community Symphony in Iowa, and with the Belarus State Symphony Orchestra in Minsk.  Described by Daniel Barenboim as “a highly gifted pianist and musician,” Mr. Alekna has garnered more than a dozen top prizes in competitions on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Hilton Head (United States), Maria Canals (Spain), and Čiurlionis (Lithuania) International Piano Competitions.   


Gabrielius Alekna has given solo recitals at New York’s Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Vienna’s Musikverein, Bösendorfer Saal, and Stadtsalon, New York’s Deutsches Haus, Adelphi University, large halls of National Philharmonic Societies of Lithuania and Belarus, and Greenwich, Connecticut’s Bruce Museum.


Gabrielius Alekna has a special interest in education and development of young talent.  Since 2011, he has been teaching as a Visiting Associate Professor at the Music Academy of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, and in 2013 has co-founded the Birštonas Summer Arts Academy (Lithuania). 


Daniel Stein - Guitar

Daniel recently completed his masters at The Juilliard School, where he studied with Ray Drummond and Ron Carter. He is an honors graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Peter Dominguez and was a member of the Oberlin Jazz Septet, a small jazz ensemble comprised of outstanding student performers nominated by the jazz faculty at Oberlin. At Oberlin, Daniel had the opportunity to study and perform with Gary Bartz, Billy Hart, Robin Eubanks Marcus Belgrave, Dan Wall, and others. Daniel is an active performer in New York, with recent appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Smalls, Dizzy's Club, Mercury Lounge and many other venues, including appearances with Billy Hart, Kenny Rampton, Donny McCaslin, Sherman Irby, Paquito D'Rivera, and others. Dan regularly performs and composes in a variety of styles besides jazz, and composed and performed the film score for the short film, Serenity. This past summer he had the honor of performing on the Queen Mary 2's 200th crossing, at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle, and at the Costa Rica jazz festival. He received a Juilliard Alumni Scholarship, the Calhoun School Music Award, a Conservatory Dean’s Award, the Margaret V.H. Jones Conservatory Scholarship, and the Elizabeth Davies Scholarship at Oberlin, and is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society for excellence in music and academic achievement.

“From the beginning, I strive to teach students through music they relate to. Whether that means nursery rhymes, pop music, Bach, or jazz, I believe a personal connection to the material is the key to a child’s musical development. I encourage active listening in addition to practicing, which allows the entire family to be involved in music education simply by discussing the music they listen to.  My goal is not necessarily to turn every student into a professional musician, but to give each one a lifelong appreciation of music and their chosen instrument. “


Sam Jones – Trumpet

My teaching centers around a love of music. I focus on the fundamentals and techniques required to perform, while using fun music/styles in which the student has an interest. In lessons, I actively play trumpet as well, to demonstrate good practice.