Downtown church launches music academy

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Educators teach lessons at First United Methodist

A local church hopes to enhance Denton’s reputation for top-notch orchestral, symphonic and popular music with a new outreach supported by church staff members and local music educators and performers.

First United Methodist Church has organized its Fine Arts Academy offering private lessons in musical instruments — piano, guitar, drums and more — as well as group lessons.

Plans are to offer drama, dance, music theory, drawing, painting and writing later.

John Priddy, the church’s music minister, said the idea of such a program had been “kicked around” for years. Late church member Shirley Ottman was an advocate.

Two years ago, Jett Cheek, director of the church’s children’s choirs, expressed an interest in making it happen. Priddy said Cheek won the support of the church staff.

“The academy has been enthusiastically accepted by nearly everyone in the congregation,” Priddy said. “It also confirms the church’s decision to stay downtown.”

The academy will have many benefits to the church, he said.

“If music is to survive, it must continue to create advocates,” Priddy said. “Those who take part in the academy will become those advocates.”

Student ensembles will perform at the church, and the academy will be part of the church’s evangelistic outreach should it bring some of the students or parents into the church.

“And it will weave ourselves into the downtown area,” Priddy said. “It will be among the things going on downtown and at the church.”

Cheek has a music degree from the University of North Texas, plays professionally with community theater ensembles and has taught private lessons for several years. He has worked at Pender’s Music Co. for nearly 20 years.

Just about anything anyone wants through the academy will be arranged, Cheek said.

“We want to be a complete fine arts academy,” he said.

Anyone interested in teaching may contact Cheek at the church.

Academy teachers are paid on a pay scale designed to attract the best teachers, he said. The teachers have experience in music education, and have either a bachelor’s or graduate degree in music. Academy teachers also have successful private studios or are working musicians, Cheek said.

The academy requires a nine-month commitment, which guarantees students will take 31 weekly lessons. Church staff members administer the program.

Cheek said the academy’s tuition and fees cover teaching and expenses.

“The academy has assured that it will continue to operate cost-neutral to the church,” he said.

The academy is already preparing to reach out to students who can’t study music or art without financial aid. One dollar out of each 30-minute lesson fee will be saved in a scholarship fund.

Students must provide their own instruments, but the academy will help those who don’t have their own instrument find an affordable one. The academy can also provide pianos on a conditional and limited basis.

Most students are expected to be elementary or middle school students, as young as first grade, but adults also are enrolled. Classes are Mondays and Tuesdays, but Cheek said that is subject to expansion. Lessons are starting this month and run through May, but summer lessons also are encouraged.

“A long-term commitment is very important,” Cheek said. “Lots of building blocks have to be put in place.”



What: music and fine arts school at First United Methodist Church of Denton

Where: East Wing of the church, at 201 S. Locust St.

When: between 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays

Details: Annual registration fee is $50. For private lessons, tuition is $810 for the September-May term, or $90 monthly. For group classes, tuition is $45 monthly. Group lessons must include at least three students.

To register: Call 940-382-5478, apply at the church office or visit

Now playing

Children in elementary and middle school can study the following instruments at the academy:

* violin

* flute

* trombone

* trumpet

* saxophone

* guitar

* voice

* music education

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