Make a Joyful Noise
Local Studio Offers In-Home Music Lessons For Students
Writer /Trisha Turner
Photographer / Erik Coser
Rachel Donahue began teaching piano as a college undergraduate, in 1999. A few years later, she wondered how she could expand her work. Her mother offered a suggestion.
Why not create a business that offers piano instruction primarily in the students’ own homes?
“I said, ‘That’s a stupid idea, Mom,’” Donahue recalls now, laughing. “I should have known. Whenever I make those stupid remarks to my mom, I always end up doing them.”
And she did. Today her Make a Joyful Noise Studio not only features Donahue as director and piano coach but also employs 12 other teachers. And instead of working out of a studio, the instructors provide in-home lessons, mainly in the Zionsville area.
While piano instruction is the most popular, students of Make a Joyful Noise, or MAJN, can also learn to play instruments like guitar, ukulele, violin, saxophone, and drums.
Families appreciate the convenience of home-based instruction, says Donahue, a Zionsville native who still calls the town home. But she and the other coaches see an additional benefit.
“Since we’re in there every week, we know everyone in the house,” she says. “We just really become part of their family, which is really fun. I think the students are not just students to me. It’s a stronger bond because of the environment.”
About 170 MAJN students take part in individual and group lessons and perform in recitals and other community events.
Make a Joyful Noise Studio is the realization of Donahue’s childhood dream — and an example of her entrepreneurial spirit.
When she started taking piano lessons as a fourth-grader, she fell in love with the instrument. She knew she wanted to teach piano herself someday. And she first worked for herself as a teenager, when she began mulching lawns to help earn money for college.
Now Donahue, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Indianapolis and a master’s degree in piano pedagogy from Butler University, is passing along to others her passion for music and teaching.
“I feel like so much of enjoying music is how it’s taught to you because everyone has different likes in music,” Donahue says. “The great challenge as a teacher is to find the thing that turns students on and help them enjoy music that way.”
With that idea in mind, MAJN’s approach is different from the traditional, one-size-fits-all method of music instruction that follows a single, prescribed curriculum. Instead, students learn their instruments according to their own strengths and interests.
Even student performances are more flexible than traditional recitals. Donahue allows students to play in groups, dress casually and present concerts in settings like the local library. But the performances are a key part of MAJN’s instruction.
“We schedule performance opportunities throughout the year because we want students to have a reason to practice other than mom signed them up and told them to do it,” Donahue says. “We want those students to have a purpose in what they’re doing.”