Have you ever wanted to learn the piano? How about the flute? Maybe you’ve always wanted to sing like an angel, or just well enough to dazzle your friends at karaoke. Regardless of your motivation, a little extra music in your life can make a world of difference, as the staff members of Mode Plus Music School knows well.
Music for all ages:
Mode Plus is an all-around music classroom and studio. It has two branches, one of which is in a quiet part of the family-friendly Kiyosumi-shirakawa neighbourhood.
As a classroom, Mode Plus offers a long list of curricula including piano, flute, vocal training, and even certification classes for those whose career paths require a musical degree. They get students from all walks of life, ranging from pre-school kids to senior citizens.
Children as young as two or three can start their music education by joining the group Dalcroze eurhythmic lessons to get acquainted with music, rhythm, structure, and expression.
Starting at age 3, students can also start “pre-piano” group lessons. “Children at that age can’t really play the piano, no matter how much their parents want them to,” explained teacher and studio manager Ms. Nagamoto with a smile. “Their fingers only become strong and dextrous enough around age 4. So we started a pre-piano class that helps younger children prepare for learning the piano later.”
The studio has 3 usable pianos to handle their 150-some students who come at various times of the week, including a full grand piano in one of their sound-proof rooms.
Elementary school students come in the afternoons after finishing school, followed by older students, while the evenings tend to play host to adults. I thought that with 150 students, Mode Plus would be reluctant to accept new learners, but this was far from the case. “We would love to see more people take morning lessons,” owner and CEO Ms. Wada told me. “I think the morning is a great time to get a little bit of music, especially for those with flexible working hours or weekday holidays.” The pianos are also available to be rented for private practice sessions.
Music for all skill levels:
A lesson I didn’t expect to see offered at Mode Plus is solfège, which teaches aural, pitch and sight-reading skills. These are all incredibly useful skills for aspiring musicians to have, and certainly integral to anyone aiming to get into a music-oriented high school or university.
There are also levelled piano courses, complete with examinations and recitals where you can be certified.
But if all that sounds too intense and stressful, no worries. Mode Plus has a wonderfully flexible attitude towards music education, and is equally encouraging of their casual learners as they are to their aspiring professionals.
“We understand that not everyone who comes to our studio will or want to become a professional musician,” Ms. Nagamoto said. “So if you’re a casual learner or a beginner or someone trying to pick up a long-ago hobby, that’s totally fine! Our goal isn’t to turn out pros—it’s leave a positive impression about how enriching music can be.”
Another surprising class they offer is the “Body and Music” course which focuses on health through music. Tailored especially for older ladies, these sessions focus on breathing, vocalizing, rhythmic tapping, and coordinated movements to feel the music!
The classes have been quite well-received by students, many of whom have noticed that the mix of music and movement makes their brains more active and their muscles more limber after each session. No previous musical experiences are necessary to get started!
Music for all styles and personalities:
Lastly, Ms. Nagamoto let me sit and experience a brief piano session with her. I haven’t played in over 10 years, but managed to have great fun!
The session felt really relaxing, and Ms. Nagamoto was very supportive in her instructions. She would tap, hum, or play along with me, and we laughed off any mistakes together. This was certainly hugely different from the piano lessons of my youth, which I remember as being more rigid, tense, and stressful.
“We try really hard to mould our teaching style to each of our students,” Ms. Nagamoto explained. “Music shouldn’t feel like a chore. It’s supposed to be part of the joys of life!”
Alongside Ms. Nagatomo, Mode Plus’s certified instructors all follow in this philosophy. The concerts they hold multiple times throughout the year also reflect this way of thinking, as students get to choose their own pieces—which range from classical to pop music and anime tunes—and various elements like dramatic readings, dancing, and costumes feature into the shows as well. Family members also get involved, with some parents playing co-performer to their kids, and everyone just has a beautiful time together.
“At the end of the day, we wanted to create a community space where both music and people could thrive,” Ms. Wada explained. “Back when we started this classroom, there were almost no music schools in the area. Now, we have many students, and are able to really get involved with our community through volunteer work and concerts and events! It’s wonderful.”
Whether you’re feeling musical or just musically curious, try dropping by in you’re in the area—there’s a tune waiting for everyone at Mode Plus.
Story and Photos by Xianru Shen（Koto City Office Coordinator for International Relations）