On the road again
It’s been nearly a decade since I first struck out with the semi-harebrained idea of making my way in life with music at the center. In 2008 I left my hometown of Saco, Maine headed for Portland, Oregon. And in 2012, I drove back across the country to Maine, resettling in that Portland (yes, this has been the source of many a confused conversation!). Although I love Maine for countless reasons, I felt the need to try out life in a big city again, with the greater diversity (and plain quantity) of people and musical opportunities it offers.
So now, ten years and two cats later (Toni Scratchton and Ding-Dong, in case you were wondering), I’ve returned to Philadelphia, where I also lived around my time studying music at Swarthmore College. Though Maine -- and Portland, in particular -- is a truly vibrant and special place for its size, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a small pool, for better or for worse, and it seemed like the right time to try a bigger one.
Starting at square one in a new town
So, this is essentially my third big move as an independent music professional, working to build up a livelihood and a reputation from square one. I feel like I know a bit more about how to navigate this tricky process, but it’s certainly not easy. For me, it can be an adrenaline-rushing adventure at one moment -- pounding the pavement to put up lesson flyers, an American dreamy-y, scrappy can-do attitude springing my steps -- and a somewhat frustrating one at others.
I’ve already been enjoying some great opportunities to play piano, sing, and teach music, though
I’m putting my skills as a pianist, singer, and educator to work all at once in my new role at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, just across the city line from Philly. I’m glad to continue working in Quaker education -- a tradition I first encountered as an undergraduate at Swarthmore -- and to work with a great group of kids as Associate Director of Vocal Ensembles. And I’m constantly learning from the other dedicated faculty members at FCS.
I’m also honored to serve as a Visiting Instructor in Piano at my alma mater, Swarthmore College. It’s been an exciting challenge to craft engaging and effective courses of study in piano for these bright young adults, most of whom are taking lessons for the first time. I’ve found my experiences with teaching piano and voice to adult beginners and my work as a Spanish teacher to be equally relevant to this work. Music, truly, is a language just like any other, and so the same principles that animate effective language teaching -- providing immersive, appropriately challenging, and personally meaningful experiences with the language -- have also animated my work with these students.
Zach Zaitlin Piano Studio takes West Philly! (do you get the Muppets reference?)
My private teaching studio, located in the University City neighborhood of West Philly, is also off to an exciting start. As fate would have it, I currently have an all-adult studio, including one composition student from Maine who chose to continue lessons with me remotely via video -- a first for me! I’m eager to get to work with more kids and teens as well, though. So, if you know of anyone looking for great instruction in keyboard, voice, composition/songwriting, or music theory in the Philadelphia area, please send them my way! My studio is easily accessible by public transportation, easy for parking, and also a quick drive from many communities in Delaware County and Montgomery County, including the Main Line. Oh, and I offer a free first lesson/interview.
I’m doing other stuff, too
Apart from teaching, I’ve been doing some other fun stuff -- singing in the excellent Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia chorus, doing my best Rocky impression on long runs through the city, enjoying all the Ben Franklin statues, etc. But I’ll have to save that for another time. The internet says good blog posts are 300-700 words long so I must tamp down my verbose proclivities here!
Happy Thanksgiving, all!