Music program helps students' talents grow
NEW PORT RICHEY - At 6, Kierra Middleton has gone from hammering away on the keys of her toy Barbie piano to composing, playing and singing her own music. Her mom credits Mullins Music, a music education program in New Port Richey, with her daughter's improvement. "She's had a love of music since she was born," said Kim Middleton. "But everything she knows, she learned from Mrs. Mullins." Marina Mullins runs Mullins Music with husband Eric. Based at the Trinity Family Church, the school has 20 students between 5 and 17 studying guitar, piano, clarinet, bass, drums, vocals and performance etiquette."My husband and I have both been music teachers since we were in college, and we feel like we have a lot to offer," said Mullins, whose father, Kobus Appelgrijn, is the pastor at Trinity Family Church. "We want, ultimately, to teach kids and grownups and to have the community come together to enjoy music." The teachers, who also include Mullins' brother, Coenraad Appelgrijn, encourage students not to let any obstacle stand in the way of developing their talents. "I once knew a student who was told she couldn't play trumpet because she's a girl. That's terrible," said Eric Mullins, also a music teacher at Genesis Preparatory School. "I also know an accomplished jazz musician who was originally told that his fingers were too short and stubby to play jazz." Every student has a dream. Kierra would like to be a professional musician someday. "I started hearing people playing music," said the Deer Park Elementary first-grader, who recently composed her first song, which she sings and plays on the piano. "I wanted to play music like those people." The school offers a diversity of activities, including the Rock Week summer camp in which students learn the ins and outs of being rock musicians. "They get to experience an instrument, to write and record music, to learn the history of rock, which begins with the blues, and are put into bands," said Eric Mullins, who earned a music performance degree from The New School in New York City. Rock Week culminates with bands performing their own concert, complete with dressing rooms that have stars on the doors and refreshments inside. "They learn how to interact with other bands," said Eric Mullins. "They learn if one band is playing, the other band should be there to support them - not trashing their dressing room." Graduates of last year's Rock Week program helped start East of Elsewhere, a Christian hard rock band based at Dayspring Academy that won Rack Room Shoes' Rock2School Music Video competition in November. Next month, Mullins Music will offer a program that explores the origins of modern music. Mullins also plans additional public concerts and recitals and hopes to gain nonprofit status, allowing it to reach more students in this area. "Right now we're willing to work with students (who face financial challenges)," said Marina Mullins, who also teaches music at Montessori School in Safety Harbor. "What we ultimately want to do is offer music scholarships to kids." Mullins Music is at 7425 Orchid Lake Road. For information, call (727) 856-0263.