I highly recommend Alex Balmaceda as a piano teacher. My child started with him at 6, when she did not take very well to direct instruction. He worked with her on improvising, sneaking in lessons here and there, until she was ready to work out of a book. Then he kept the improvising part of the lesson. He is patient, kind, and creative about strategies for helping kids learn without it feeling too much like work. At the recital he held for his students, it was so charming to see him sit down and help very young children pick out tunes — everyone got to perform and hear applause, regardless of level. Alex makes piano fun and interesting, for very reasonable rates and with a flexible schedule. He’s a gem!
Parent - Beth Freeman
Alex is one in a million! He teaches music through a structural perspective rather than by the more traditional method of learn a note here, learn a note there (I haven't played the piano since I was a child, but I still cringe at the memory of the tedious and monotonous scales, finger exercises and simplified classical pieces I used to have to play). Alex's lessons are anything but tedious, and, even though I am essentially a beginner (having forgotten everything I learned as a child), I feel like I am well on my way to having a deeper understanding of what I am playing because I have a developing understanding how it works. I feel like I am learning the language of music through total immersion rather than by the textbook method of learning how to read the notes. I now listen to and hear music differently, and there is much I am learning on my own.
I am especially pleased with the way Alex tailors my lessons around what I want to do rather than what he thinks I should do. As a result, I am learning to play jazz piano rather the stuff I was forced to play as a child (unless I want to, of course, in which case he would teach me that).
And the best part (as if it could get better)? Alex is so enthusiastic about what he does that it is contagious and makes working with him a sheer joy. There is not much I look forward to and enjoy more than my lessons with Alex. Needless to say, I highly recommend Alex Balmaceda for anyone who is interested in learning more about music than simply reading and playing the notes.
Adult Piano Student - Alyse C.
"Alex has been an excellent teacher! He was able to bring both clear instruction and lively passion to each lesson, and readily fostered my enthusiasm to learn how to play piano. I came to Alex with absolutely zero experience with the piano and within a couple lessons I was able to confidently play some of my favorite tunes. He catered my lessons to my musical interests and regularly emphasized the need to have fun while I play. Through my lessons with Alex I feel I now have both a solid technical foundation and strengthened passion for playing music!"
Adult Piano Student - Diane
Alex is an outstanding music instructor and interpreter. He has mastered a great variety of instruments and is an accomplished artist in his own right. In addition, as an instructor, Alex has the rare quality of introducing difficult theoretical and performance concepts in such an effortless, student-centered manner that students of many different ability levels not only understand them, but are motivated to apply to them with enthusiasm and rigor on their own. Alex is extremely affable and accommodating, an exemplary professional. I recommend him without reserve.
Carmen D. Melendez-Lugo Visual Artist
"I've known Alex for many years, and the unique thing about Alex is his ability to make his students feel comfortable with their own talents and help them to shine. Alex makes students love music. In the past, I've also seen him teach math in ways that made students enjoy the work and improve as a result. Alex is a really intelligent guy who is capable of bringing out the natural talents and a true love of music in his students. I highly recommend him as a music instructor."
Tracey L. Carter, PhD has recommended Alex's work as Music Director of La Playa Music School.
"I'd found it hard to find a school that taught kids at the introductory level a instrument as young as 6. I found my kid learned rapidly and enjoyed the lessons. I was surprised at the Music camp how much performance was emphasized. The kids really seemed to enjoy it, and it brought out the best in them. I think La Playa Music School does an amazing job with active, spirited kids and directing their energy to do beautiful things with music and performance. I would recommend La Playa to any parent with an active kid who wants have fun and learn music."
The McVey Family
"We love our piano teacher, Alex Balmaceda of La Playa Music School. He comes to our house weekly for a lesson with my 8 and 11 year old kids (or you can go to his studio out in the Avenues). He is great with the kids! He has a non-traditional approach and they learned to play songs from the beginning while slowly learning to play from sheet music. By the end of the first lesson, my son learned a good bit of the theme to "Star Wars" (on one hand) and was hooked. It's wonderful to not have to shuttle the kids around to another activity and listen to the lesson going on while making dinner or puttering around doing house chores."
The Jackson Family
"We came to La Playa Music school after a year of fairly uninspiring music lessons. Our daughter was getting bored with the Piano and restless. La Playa Music School was recommended by a friend and after one lesson it was clear the approach by teacher Alex Balmaceda was exactly what she needed for inspiration. Alex's style is playful and direct, he is able to follow his students clues and interests and meet them where they are at. Our daughter is both inspired and challenged. She looks forward to lessons every week and practices daily without any prodding. We feel that she is getting a good balance between formal and informal training. She is getting a feel for music as well as learning to read it. She is making choices for herself about what she wants to learn as well as what she needs to learn. Not only is Alex an excellent and inspirational teacher, he is patient, accommodating, and flexible. Our family is very grateful to have found La Playa Music School and would recommend it to anyone wholeheartedly!"
The Yon Family
I am writing to recommend the work of La Playa Music School and founders/instructors Alex Balmaceda and Martina Ayala. I hired Alex and Martina to teach music at The Mission Preparatory School and worked with them for over a year. They are both warm, creative, thoughtful, engaging educators with many years of experience at all age levels.
Alex and Martina taught after-school music classes, oversaw a program of after-school teaching artists, and frequently taught an immersion Spanish class during the school day. I noticed immediately that their lessons combined music, voice, story-telling, and movement. They were incredibly perceptive to different children's needs, and employed a variety of effective strategies to ensure that all children could participate in their classes. One student who had difficulty sitting still to learn a particular drumbeat was moved to be in close proximity to Martina and appointed to a role leading the whole class. The strategy worked remarkably well.
It is a testament to La Playa's years of working with children that they are able to identify which students will thrive under what conditions. They are expert in a wide range of student interventions and scaffolds, but more importantly, they are genuine, flexible, and fun. One thing that was most impressive was the immediate rapport they developed with their classes. They are always kind and positive with all students. In response, the students enthusiastically looked forward to their La Playa classes and clearly loved Martina and Alex.
I wish all the best for La Playa, Martina, and Alex and enthusiastically recommend their music instruction.
Alyssa ThompsonFrmr. Dean of Administration, The Mission Preparatory School