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Perfect pitch 

Born with absolute pitch, the inherent ability to recognize musical notes, Bonnie teVelde has always been musically inclined. She would reach up on her tip-toes to play the piano in her childhood home. Her musical chronology began there, followed by a rude and demanding piano teacher, a life-altering accident that left her in physical rehabilitation and no longer able to sit at the instrument, and the chance to start again on accordion with a teacher who was nurturing and enthusiastic. All of these events contributed to her dream of starting a music school that would be unique from all of the others.

Her dream became a reality in 1997, when she started the first location of her business, teVelde Music Inc. in Arroyo Grande. She opened her second location in SLO just two months ago.


- HAVE INSTRUMENTS, WILL TEACH :  Bonnie teVelde believes that learning music should be fun; she incorporates this philosophy into teVelde Music Inc. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • HAVE INSTRUMENTS, WILL TEACH : Bonnie teVelde believes that learning music should be fun; she incorporates this philosophy into teVelde Music Inc.

“Statistically, 83 percent of students quit their instrument within the first year. With us, it has been the exact opposite—we’ve had only 22 percent quit each year, and a majority of those were students who have moved or begun high school.”

Students come from all over the Central Coast, some traveling all the way from Santa Barbara for their classes.

She achieves this kind of dedication by her process of choosing teachers. Between the two schools, there are 12 instructors, all with vibrant personalities. teVelde hires teachers who, instead of being mainly musicians, are primarily trained in working with children, and who have nurturing traits—namely preschool teachers with a background in music.

“I want the teachers to learn as much from the students as the students learn from them,” she explained.

As performers are generally known to have intense, practice-driven, and detail-oriented personalities, picking less-austere teachers for children is crucial for learning. Her motto is “Ban the word ‘practice.’” In its stead, teachers encourage a student’s talent by asking, “Won’t you please play for me?” She also includes up-to-date interactive technology, to keep things exciting and modern. Her goal is for students to stay with the school for 10 to 15 years, and to be filled with excitement the whole way through.

teVelde Inc. accepts children as young as 2 years old, due to teVelde’s teaching theories involving absolute pitch. Students are either born with this musical trait or must begin lessons before age 6 to allow for it to develop, and once it’s ingrained, it will be with them for the rest of their lives. So far, the hypothesis has produced 12 students, ranging between the ages of 3 and 12, who’ve successfully been taught absolute pitch, she said.

The new space at 3440 S. Higuera St. is 920 square feet, with five teaching rooms fully equipped for any instrument. The school specializes in piano and offers classes in voice, drums, guitar, harp, mandolin, violin, banjo, bass, and more. Parents can take classes alongside their children for no extra charge. teVelde relayed an anecdote about one of the students making a bed for themselves in a bass drum.

“I want the students to have to be pulled out, not forced in,” she said.

For more information about teVelde Music, Inc., visit or call 474-1224 (Arroyo Grande) or 543-1064 (San Luis Obispo).

Fast facts

SLO Walk to End Alzheimer’s celebrates its 10th annual walk on Oct. 15 at Laguna Lake Park. The 5K walk will take place at 10 a.m., and the event will include a lunch provided by The Villages, booths, prizes, face painting, and Dr. Magic. The funds raised support more than 6,000 local families coping with Alzheimer’s. Register for the walk at or reach Cynthia Wittmeyer for more information, 547-3830.

Intern Rachel Molli Fields compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business news to [email protected].

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