Appleton Music Academy

by Judy Dixon Hebbe

“Go on the internet and you will find a list of area music teachers. But how does a parent, or even an adult, know which one will be the right fit for their child or them?” asked Ryan Korb.

He founded the Appleton Music Academy to answer that question and, as an unintended consequence, opened a venue for music teachers who did not have facilities in their homes. The academy is housed at Emmanuel United Methodist Church on College Avenue, where Korb serves as music director. It now has 10 teachers offering lessons in violin, piano, guitar, voice, and percussion.  

Because there is no break during the summer, students may continue classes year-round, although the year-round schedule is not required. In the absence of a public and parochial option, students from other schools take classes during the summer. Retirees and snowbirds who spend spring and summer in the Fox Cities also take lessons.

“All of our teachers are pre-screened and vetted,” said Korb. “We look for good educators with good performance skills and make sure they are really nice, good people. We want to be sure that each of our teachers gets along well with their students and the students respond well to them.”

Teachers meet students where they are in their own musical development. This may include retirees or young children taking up an instrument for the first time or students who have received instruction at school or with other teachers. The material is geared to their interests.  

“We take a more holistic approach to teaching, making it fun yet giving a little push to let students feel the challenge,” said Korb. “We teach about music through whatever style they choose to pursue. The goal is to bring music into their lives for a lifetime.”

Teachers integrate the creative side of music understanding and appreciation with the physical side of performance. Practice time is kept the same as are lesson times. Recognizing that schedules can be interrupted, make-up class times are offered every month.

For many, music is a good escape from the stress of school, work, or a daily schedule. Time to interact with music can provide enjoyment for a lifetime. People, young and old, gain self-confidence as they interact with music.

Music has been a goal of Korb’s for most of his life. He knew he would be attending Lawrence University when he was a senior in high school and attended the Red Lodge Music Festival in his home state of Montana. It was there that he met John Harmon, a Lawrence graduate and first director of its jazz studies program. He has studied music in India and Cuba and from a variety of people around the country at various master classes.  

While at Lawrence, he and friends formed “Africa West,” a group that focuses on African/Caribbean music and played at different venues throughout the United States, most recently teaching a master class at Campbell University in North Carolina. The group has also cut five CDs.

Korb began his teaching career at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1999 and is still there. He also teaches a percussion methods class at Lawrence. Korb regularly plays in the pit for Broadway shows at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and in back-up bands for Janet Planet.  

“This is how a musician works,” Korb said. “In choosing what to do, I have been fortunate to be with good people and play throughout the United States and the world.”

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