New Expansion Plans Announced For 2016 – 2017 In Hendersonville Times-News – May 22, 2016


Michael Ridenour, director of the Music Academy of WNC, teaches Savannah Barnwell, 10, on Friday afternoon. Patrick Sullivan/Times-News

Published: Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 4:30 a.m.

The Music Academy of Western North Carolina has announced significant expansion plans, which includes the rollout of an afterschool program for elementary students.

The academy’s director, Michael Ridenour, said he will begin phasing in a series of new programs at the Hendersonville-based academy over the next year, expecting to add 200 more students to the school.

Starting next school year, the academy will begin offering afterschool string instruments program for fourth- and fifth-graders in Henderson County. Flyers for the afterschool program will be distributed to fourth- and fifth-grade students in Henderson County Public Schools. The afterschool lessons will be taught in a classroom setting at the academy at 235 Duncan Hill Road several times a week.

“This program within itself is a pretty big undertaking,” said Ridenour. “I think it will benefit a lot of kids in Henderson County and prepare them for other programs that already exist.”

Ridenour said there isn’t any kind of string program for elementary kids in Henderson County. Academy leaders want the afterschool program to supplement the strong programs at the middle and high schools along with the Hendersonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“We’re trying to accomplish a couple of goals,” Ridenour said. “Number one is just to have a good extracurricular music activity for fourth and fifth graders. Number two is to start to develop, along with the Hendersonville Youth Symphony, an elementary school ensemble. Right now, they start they start at the sixth-grade level but they don’t have anything for the elementary school kids.”

The afterschool program will roll out in September at the elementary schools. The academy also plans to offer onsite classes at new FernLeaf Community Charter School next spring.

In addition to plans for an afterschool program, the academy will begin offering online lessons later this summer using an online program called JamKazam. It is an online meeting site where musicians can play together in real time over the internet. Similar to Skype, instructors will be able to teach their students from anywhere.

“What this does is it kind of takes us outside our brick and mortar building here to where we can offer online lessons,” said Ridenour. “We can offer them here, or since we have a lot of teachers traveling from Asheville and other counties, we can actually offer online lessons and they can do them from their home, but still come through the music academy.”

The academy has about 200 students right now. Ridenour expects the afterschool programs to add 100 to 150 more students and the online lessons to add another 50 for now.

“Just those things were probably looking at a good 400 students total, and that’s kind of being conservative,” Ridenour said. “That will pretty much solidify us as the largest private music school in the county once we get these programs up and going by the end of the year.”

An afterschool program and online courses aren’t the only new additions. The academy teaches many styles of music, including classical, rock, jazz, pop and country. Now they will be adding a folk music program to the mix.

“Western North Carolina is kind of a mecca to folk music,” Ridenour. “We’ve had a lot of calls for folk music like mandolin, banjo and things of that nature, but I’ve never really found someone that was an area expert of that.”

He found that someone in Tyler Cason, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from North Greenville University and is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Georgia. Cason will be teaching folk guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, songwriting and voice in the folk music program, which is expected to roll out in full this fall.

Next spring, the academy will also begin publishing method books and publications from instructors. The academy currently has 14 instructors, most of whom hold masters or doctorate degrees in music education.

The Music Academy of Western North Carolina was founded in 1997. In 2009, the academy moved to is current location at 235 Duncan Hill Road and had since expanded three times to accommodate student growth. Ridenour said it’s likely he’ll have to expand again next year after all the expansion plans are phased in.

For more information, visit or call 828-693-3726.

2016 Annual Spring Student Recitals Are This Coming Weekend


We will be holding our annual spring recitals this coming Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening in the performance room at the Music Academy of WNC. We are very proud of all of our students, their hard work, and dedication and look forward to hearing them perform this weekend.

Five Essential Practice Tips For the Busy Music Student – By: Michael Ridenour


You’re busy! I get that. We’re all busy. Private music students today tend to be so busy with school, homework, sports, and multiple extra-curricular activities they can find little time to practice their musical instrument. To combat the busyness, here are five essential practice tips that busy music students can follow to maximize and measure progress when learning a musical instrument.

  1. Set Aside a Consistent & Daily Practice Time. Practice time is sacred. It’s as sacred as Moses standing in front of the burning bush. That’s how serious music students should take it. Find some time alone during the day – no cell phones, no texts, no emails, no Kindles or I-PADs, no computers, no television, no distractions of any kind – just you and your instrument.  Students have to get into a mindset that nothing else matters or exists when they practice. This takes discipline and dedication but is well worth it in the long run.
  1. Set Daily Practice Goals: Time is precious so don’t waste it! Playing around, goofing off, and calling it practice is NOT practicing. Students can waste more time playing their favorite Metallica riffs for hours rather than setting daily practice goals that maximize and measure progress. Students should ask themselves: What am I trying to accomplish technically and musically today? Once that question is answered then divide the practice time between those technical and musical goals. If a 45-minute practice time is established then dedicate 20 minutes to technique (scales, arpeggios, left/right hand exercises, etc.) and the other 25 minutes to learning musical pieces that build musicianship. Create and manage a daily practice routine that encompasses a good balance of technical and musical goals. Keeping a daily practice journal is a great way to set goals and measure progress in these areas. After honestly practicing and accomplishing the desired technical and musical goals for the day, then play all the Metallica riffs your heart desires. Music is supposed to be fun but it does require hard work and dedication if students are going to excel.
  1. Practice Slowly: Practicing slow is critical in achieving technical and musical success. Students continuously build habits in their muscle memory. These habits can either be good or bad. When practicing scales, arpeggios, and other technical exercises, practice slowly to make sure all hand movements and synchronization, fingerings (left and/or right hand), picking patterns (for guitarists), bowings (for string players), motion distribution, speed, articulation, and tone are accurate. Once these elements are mastered at slower tempos then gradually increase the tempo while maintaining proper technique. Practice with a metronome and chart speed development as part of the daily practice journal. Students should find songs and other musical pieces that incorporate the technical elements they are mastering for application.
  1. Take Small Bites: Work on one measure or phrase at a time when learning or practicing a new musical piece. Taking small bites can quickly get students past the notes and fingerings and on to the technical and musical elements the piece requires. Concentrate on these technical and musical elements once the notes and fingerings are learned. Practice slowly and build up speed with a metronome as the material is mastered. Learning and practicing in small increments allow students to master material faster and with more solid technique and musicality than practicing an entire piece at performance-level tempos from the very beginning. Practicing in this manner is really the only way to practice; even if students have all the time in the world.
  1. Measure Success & Keep Practicing: Measuring success is a great way to stay focused and motivated. Nothing gets me motivated more and into the practice room faster than seeing progress and celebrating what I have accomplished. Keep a daily practice journal, as discussed, to measure success. This is a great reminder of progress made from a week, two weeks, or even a month ago. Once students see how much they have improved then they will want to practice that much more!!

Michael Ridenour is the Director at the Music Academy of WNC in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He holds a Master’s of Music degree in guitar performance, has over 30 years of teaching and performing experience, and teaches approximately 50 guitar students each week in all genres of music. For more information about Michael Ridenour or the Music Academy of WNC, please visit their website at