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Patterns Playing Upon the Mind at The Music Institute of North Texas

By David Boegaard

After a stellar path as a pianist, Melody Ouyang started the Music Institute of North Texas to ensure that local children would have access to the highest reaches of musical performance. With exceptional facilities and only the best qualified teachers, the Institute offers the region's finest instruction in a variety of instruments including piano, violin, voice, guitar, cello, and drums.

The Music Institute of North Texas started in Frisco, Texas in 2005. In the beginning, it was a simple operation where all classes were taught by the founder, Melody Ouyang, who came to music instruction after many years deeply involved in the study and performance of music.

Ouyang started with piano while still a small child. "My dream was becoming a concert pianist," says Ouyang, founder and director of the Music Institute. "When I was 13 years old, I was accepted at The Juilliard School in New York." She completed her degree from Juillard, and continued to a Masters and Doctorate in Piano Performance from Yale and the New England Conservatory. It was during this period that Ouyang began teaching piano. "I found joy and a great sense of accomplishment in teaching students."

The idea for the Music Institute of North Texas (MINT) came when Ouyang moved to the North Dallas area with her husband and children. While there was an abundance of cultural options, none of the musical education institutions were up to her exceptionally high standards. "I first got the idea of building a world class music institute in the North Dallas area because I wanted a music school that I would be proud to send my own children to learn music." Rather than complaining, Ouyang started the institution she desired.

The benefits of learning an instrument transcend the mere pleasure of playing, or any income from professional performance. Socrates claimed that every child should begin their education by studying music and gymnastics. "Music education benefits children of all ages," Ouyang agrees, though she would leave the gymnastics to others.

And it's not only because of the teachings of Ancient philosophy that we consider music an important part of education. "Many studies have shown that music education helps with many aspects of learning, including reading, math, and problem solving skills," notes Ouyang. "Preparing a music piece and performing in front of an audience is an important life skill that students will benefit for the rest of their lives."

MINT takes a different path to excellence than many comparable musical education institutions.

They built their own facility, precisely to Ouyang's specifications. "I designed the building myself to ensure the best music education environment possible." And they only use the finest pianos, says Ouyang, because "students of all levels deserve to play on the best instruments." Private students are taught exclusively on grand pianos to help gain proper technique.

But the most important distinction of MINT is their teachers. "Due to our stellar reputation as the premier music school in this area," says Ouyang, "we also attract the best teachers." Each is chosen only after Ouyang gives her stamp of approval. And all the teachers are not only expert in their instrument, they've received an education in it, boasts Ouyang. "All of our teachers have degrees in the specific instruments that they teach and are very experienced in teaching students of all ages and interests."

Of course, rigorous practice can become a bit dry if there are no opportunities to perform for the pleasure of others. That's why MINT offers "a wide variety of performance opportunities through recitals, festivals, and competitions," suggests Ouyang. Again, they ensured they had the finest local facilities. "We built a concert hall within the school," says Ouyang, "complete with a 9 ft Concert Grand Steinway piano, for our student recitals." Students also participate in a variety of local, state and national festivals and competitions.

A central part of the youth education at MINT is the inclusion of the internationally recognized Music Development Program developed by the Royal Conservatory of Music. This Music Development Program offers a rigorous program of advancement and national standards for competitive students to evaluate their progress.

"It is a well-rounded program that includes playing a set of pieces and etudes, meeting certain technical requirements, as well as ear training and theory testing." MINT was recognized by the Royal Conservatory of Music as the finest music education institution in the region, and allowed to be a Founding School for the program. "Our teachers are trained to prepare students for this program and many of our students have scored highest points in regional and national level."

Though there is no better place to send your child in the Dallas region, if you want them to experience a truly rigorous musical education, the aim is finally much broader. "Music is a part of humanity," says Ouyang. "Understanding music and being able to enjoy music at a different level is a really a gift that students can benefit throughout their lives."

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