Monday, November 9, 2015

Rosalyn Ellsworth: LPM Fills a Need in My Soul

I caught up with Rosalyn Ellsworth who recently relocated from Gilbert, Arizona to Mapleton, Utah where she teaches three classes one day a week.

Tell us about yourself and your move:
Rosalyn, far left, with other teachers from her area.
I’m a native Arizonan, so living in Utah has been a grand adventure!  It is beautiful here, the mountains are magnificent, and the people have been friendly.  None so friendly, though, as my Let’s Play Music family!  I inherited half of my current students and it has been a great blessing to find an immediate network of teachers and parents in a new location.  I am grateful to those who have welcomed me and trusted me to teach their children.  I'm a single mom and have 7 children ages 6-24.

Before ‘Mom Explores Michigan’, there was ‘Mom’s Beat’

I remember when all 5 of our children were in school and I had picked up some classes at the community college to explore my next chapter.  One day I came upon the "Mom’s Beat" column in the Arizona Republic newspaper showcasing Let’s Play Music with an interview of Shelle Soelberg.  I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce her name (was it Shell or Shelly?), but I was riveted by her teaching philosophies of how to reach and utilize a child's imagination and heart to give children a full grasp of music.  I nodded in agreement as Shelle described parent-to-child bonding as the fuel powering the curriculum vehicle of playful songs and musical games, transporting music deeper into a child's heart and mind.  

At first I was elated by what I saw as a breakthrough in children's music instruction.  But then my heart sank. Twice.  Once, because I wasn’t involved in something so energetic and meaningful, and twice, because my children were too old to participate.  I studied the article, re-reading key points and then I recognized the name of the columnist, Brooke Romney, a new friend I had met a few months previously.  

Shortly thereafter, I volunteered with Brooke at a cub scout activity.  I mustered the courage to compliment Brooke on her article.  This was hard because I was still broken-hearted to be left out of LPM.  Imagine my surprise (and gratitude) when Brooke let me know Let's Play Music certified teachers for teaching the curriculum and encouraged me to become a Let’s Play Music teacher!  As if she hadn’t already encouraged me enough, Brooke then registered two of her boys in my classes.  We had a ball, and the rest is history.  

"You lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together"

I was just thinking the other day how Let’s Play Music fills a very real need in my soul.  I was 8 years old when I began violin lessons with my Grandpa, Beryl Folks.  It was hard work.  I wanted so badly to please my Grandpa and he had exact expectations that required serious practice.  There were many tears, and what felt to me, long practicing sessions.  I am sure I only practiced one hour a day, but it felt much longer!  Piano began a little later, and while piano seemed easier since I didn’t have to create the correct pitch, I found it also required diligence and focus.

About that time, my parents took our family to see a stage musical and brought the soundtrack home.  The play had captured my imagination and the soundtrack kept it alive.  My sister and I sang along and reenacted that play over and over.  Soon we added new songs and musical soundtracks to our interpretations.  I felt happy singing and dancing, happier still, when Mom would curl up on the couch and watch.  Singing and performing with my sister are some of my happiest childhood memories.

Then, Up With People! came to town and I fell in love.  I was 11 years old had found my calling in life!  I wanted to be on that stage, singing and dancing wearing lip gloss and holding a microphone!  Touring with a show choir to destinations like Russia and New York enticed my young mind.  What strikes me now is the fact that show choirs and musical theatre are built on MUSIC.  At my young age, I didn’t equate music study with joy – and I certainly didn’t realize the very violin and piano study I was painfully enduring was the backbone for my dream.

Decades later in my studio, I find my polar opposite childhood musical experiences have merged.  I now enjoy a satisfying blend of playful showmanship surrounding serious musical instruction. My students and I get to play while we enjoy and learn music together.  
Share some of the Surprises You've Found while teaching?

My children were ages 10-18 when I began teaching and they were as supportive as teenagers can be when Mom embarks on something new.  My now 22 year old daughter shared that she learned more music theory listening to me teach my young Let’s Play Music students than in her childhood piano and high school choir experiences combined.  A few summers ago, after overhearing my phone conversation with someone in the corporate office, my then 18 year old son said, “I thought Let’s Play Music was just a little music class.  I didn’t know it was a thing.”  To which my husband quipped, “Oh it’s big.  It’s like NASCAR.”  Today, I can start singing any Let’s Play Music song and my big kids will jump in with me to sing the rest – Happiness!
A more recent and fun surprise for me has been the chance to finally attend class as a Let’s Play Music parent.  Our twin girls who arrived during my first year teaching are finally old enough to be students! While I attend classes with a smile and sing my very best, what has surprised me most is what happens during the week between classes.  Silly me, I thought all the fun was had during class.  Now, I thrill every time I hear precious little voices spontaneously singing their favorite Let’s Play Music songs.  Games played during class sometimes morph into crazy family bedtime procrastinators with Dad and the big teenage brothers.  And if I mimic the teacher’s antics just right during a puppet show, my little girls dissolve into giggles.  Seeing love and joy shine in their eyes feeds my soul.
Describe your studio?

The LPM studio at Ros's house.

I carry a small to medium studio and I love it that way because I am still in the thick of parenting.  Still, teaching fills me with joy and puts a bounce in my step, and I think makes me a more effective Mom.  This year, I’m teaching one day a week and it works.  Even with my few classes, I pour my heart into my preparation and my students.  I find I work well in clearly designated teaching areas. I have been blessed to be able to dedicate space in my home almost exclusively to my classes.  Teaching out of our homes provides a warmth to students, I think, that fosters trust and safety as we explore music together.  When parents attend class, I want them to feel comfortable moving around and participating with their child.  My goal is for parents of my students to find confidence in my professional commitment, teaching effectiveness and consistency.  

Highlights of your career so far?

Ros and some of her students.
Oh, there have been so many.  Like my first little group of students who learned the curriculum along with me – they will always be dear to me.  There’s the vibrant “I can” in the childrens’ eyes when they master playing their chords.  Or the satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the third year, when they perform their own composition and take home a published copy of their work.  It’s thrilling.  There are the dedicated parents who carve out resources to provide this experience for their children, arrange child care so they can attend classes on parent days, learn ALL the songs, games, chords, puppet shows and hand signs, AND THEN supervise practice time with play, humor, emotional muscle and patience.  I absolutely respect and honor the Moms and Dads who walk through my door. 

Advice for parents who've enrolled in Let’s Play Music?

I would encourage parents to stay connected with their child’s teacher as they progress through the program.  One easy way is to make the parent orientation meeting held before classes begin a priority, then ask questions and get clarification throughout the semesters.  Communicate if you are struggling to master a musical skill during practice time and let your teacher help you identify and remove hurdles or suggest a new angle.  Share something that works well during practice time. Working together to reach each child more effectively is a win-win.

Advice for new teachers?

Believe in yourself and be your best self.  Trust that as you train in the Let’s Play Music philosophies and methods, and provide a quality product with integrity and consistency, you will attract students to your studio that work with your personality.  I am a firm believer in an abundance mentality.  Children in your area need you.  Other children in your area may need a different personality; that is one of the beauties of being a Let’s Play Music teacher.  Teachers complement each other in our cities throughout the country, even while we build friendships and support each other.   Which leads to my next suggestion, find a mentor friend.   Call and bounce ideas off each other.   Have confidence in the camaraderie.  Through the years I have been pleasantly rewarded for reaching out to teachers both in and outside my immediate area.  I count them as friends for taking my questions seriously and considering possible solutions with me.
Any parting words?
The Mom of a former student recently reached out and shared something her 7 year old had confided while preparing to meet his new private piano teacher: “I’m probably not going to ever have a music class as fun as Let’s Play Music.  Maybe we can send my new music to Mrs. Ros and she can tell us how to make it fun!”


  1. Reading this makes me wish I was young again and could be part of the LPM world. The enthusiasm of this awesome teacher is contagious!

  2. Beautiful and thoughtful article Ros! I was missing you and looked you up... sounds like you are on to a new place and adventures - but and glad to see you are still loving and thriving in teaching music. Such a rewarding job it is!