In 1978, Wanda Cullen, Director Emeritus and Assistant Director began offering piano lessons out of her River Ridge home. As word around the city grew over the years, so did the program which has greatly expanded to multiple campuses and a faculty of 37 piano instructors. LAAPA is the largest private school of piano in the Greater New Orleans area having provided over one hundred thousand lessons to the community to date.
Our Mandeville, Covington, and River Ridge (Harahan) schools of music offer instruction in piano for ages 5-adult. Lessons are offered weekly as a 30, 45, or 60 minute private or small group session. We love to teach students of all levels including beginning, intermediate and advanced. Our faculty members teach in a variety of different styles such as classical/traditional, jazz, rock, contemporary, christian, blues, gospel, etc. We additionally have several teachers on staff that specialize in teaching and developing improvisational skills and reading from lead sheets (as commonly found in popular/rock/jazz/new orleans music). Whatever style of piano you would like to learn, our instructors are ready to customize a lesson plan for you.
Beginners are Welcome:
Our piano lessons are one of the cornerstones of the Academy's success. Hundreds of students have chosen piano instruction with LAAPA because of how we are able to structure lessons for our beginning students in a way that is both progressive and fun! We love working with students of all levels, but especially with beginners since we can mold them from the ground up!
About our Piano Instructors:
The Piano Faculty at LAAPA come to us from some of the best music schools and universities in the country which include Loyola University of New Orleans, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Tulane University, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Miami, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Northwestern University, and more. When choosing an instructor or piano studio, it's important to know the instructor’s background, i.e. where they have studied and what their primary style of training is. The world of music education is vast. Some instructors have a more classical background (such as those who have graduated from a University program with a degree in piano performance), while other instructors may have more of a jazz/blues/pop background (such as those who have perhaps majored in jazz studies or studied commercial music). At all LAAPA locations, our piano instructors teach many and multiple styles. Whatever your needs and preferences are, and whether it is classical, jazz/rock, church music, or a combination of many styles, we have the instructor for you! Here at LAAPA, we are certain that you will enjoy learning with our faculty who are all hired for their abilities to communicate key concepts in multiple ways ensuring the understanding and ultimate success of the student.
Our piano teachers go beyond just teaching students how to read notes on the page - they bring to LAAPA an educational culture of fun and creativity. Watch this introductory "lagniappe piano/voice lesson" on "Creativity in Music" from Faculty member, Mrs. Katarina.
About our Piano Methods:
Our Faculty at the Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts use a variety of nationally recognized method books such as Alfred, Faber & Faber, Bastien, Schaum, Glover, in addition to other literature that may be provided based on the individual needs of the student.
All Inclusive Music Theory Program:
When you enroll at Laapa, you are additionally eligible to attend our weekly 45 minute music theory classes which are completely free of charge to all of our currently enrolled music students. While this class is optional, it is certainly beneficial in terms of accelerating the student's proficiency in the fundamentals of how music works. Topics include - music notation, ear training, basic composition, scales, rhythm, and more. For your convenience, this is a group class that meets at each of our campuses as well as online via our interactive white board and Zoom HD video calls.
At Laapa, we want the very best for our students which is why all of our classrooms have well maintained, hand picked Yamaha, Kawai, Young Chang, Steinway, and American instruments. All of our students take their piano lessons on real acoustic instruments. Digital pianos have made a tremendous amount of progress over the years, and while a keyboard is perfectly suitable for beginning students to practice on outside of lessons, we believe lessons at a professional school of music or music studio should be conducted on high quality, acoustic instruments in order for the student to be properly trained in controlling dynamics, technique, pedaling, etc.
Our River Ridge Performance Hall, located at our Harahan campus features a 6 foot 7 inch Young Chang grand. Our Mandeville School of Music & Dance features two performance halls. Performance Hall A is equipped with a Yamaha C5 grand piano and Performance Hall B features a beautiful Steinway M donated to the academy by Philanthropist Anton Beck. Additionally, both of our Mandeville performance halls are linked to our recording studio.
Piano Performance Opportunities:
As in all of our programs, our students have several opportunities to perform each year. Each December and June, we hold our recitals at several venues including Nunemaker Auditorium and Roussel Hall on the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, Victory Fellowship in Metairie, LA as well as Fuhrmann Auditorium in Covington, LA. We regularly add new performances and educational videos to our YouTube channel which you can watch here!
Some frequently asked questions regarding piano lessons that we receive include:
"Do I need a piano at home in order to get started in lessons?"
"What kind of piano should I/we purchase?"
"Should we have an acoustic instrument at home, or is a digital piano acceptable?"
Watch the video by Academy Director Ryan Cullen below as he discusses what kind of pianos are needed to get started in lessons!
In order to maximize the progress of the student and ensure the most efficient use of each lesson, all students should have access to some type of keyboard instrument at home in order to practice outside of the regular lessons. While an acoustic piano is certainly always optimal should space and funds permit, digital instruments have come a long way in terms of tone, touch, and the overall playing experience. Most times an excellent keyboard or digital instrument can be purchased for the same price as an old/poorly conditioned acoustic. Of course, there are always exceptions and good deals do become available. Whenever purchasing a used acoustic piano, we always recommend having a "Registered Piano Technician" check it out and evaluate it. As we are in New Orleans, there are still many older instruments in the area that may have suffered flood damage during Hurricane Katrina. A registered technician can carefully inspect the overall structure of the piano to determine its value and true condition (as well as possible restoration costs).
In short, for most beginning students, our teachers and staff agree that a digital piano will be perfectly acceptable to begin for your first year of lessons before the decision to invest in an acoustic instrument is made. Keyboards come in many different makes, models, sizes, and key lengths. Digital pianos can cost as little as $100 and as much as several thousand dollars. Our basic digital instrument / keyboard recommendations are that it have full sized, touch sensitive keys. Whenever possible, a semi-weighted or fully weighted action is preferred to most closely afford the student the feel of an acoustic instrument at home. For more information on what to look for when selecting a digital piano, take a moment to watch our video on the subject above.