Music teacher Mary Alice Salciccia was told at an early age she had a gift of music, and her parents started her in lessons when she was 5. Throughout her 35-year career as a teacher, she has patterned her style after that first mentor, incorporating music as part of her lifestyle.
“Music is not just about a song, it is learning a language,” Salciccia said. “That idea raises the level of participation in a student.”
Salciccia pursued a degree in music at the University of Alaska in Juneau in the 1980s, and she was in a music store, playing a piano, when the owner asked if she could teach.
“I replied, ‘Yes,’ and he told me the scheduled teacher was having a baby, so get ready, my first student started in 15 minutes,” Salciccia said. “I’ve been teaching ever since.”
From the beginning of her teaching, Salciccia used a method she developed that breaks down the basics of music into simple parts. She felt a need to explain in more detail than traditional books do.
Salciccia said it creates a better foundation and understanding to music. She calls it “Mary’s Method,” and her new book, “Hello Music,” is the first published in a series that incorporates her ideas.
“Students need to be comfortable and confident to enjoy music,” she said. “I want to provide a base of knowledge for them to have a good level of participation. The books break down elements of music page by page, lesson by lesson, into a simple, fun complete book.”
Salciccia has a book for most instruments, and the method allows students to learn on their own or with a teacher. The books teach them how to read, compose, write and interpret rhythm and music.
“I can teach a classroom with people all playing different instruments,” Salciccia said. “The pages all correspond to be the same.”
Salciccia tailors and creates a program that works for each student and tries to meet their needs. She currently has 20 students ages 5-80 in different levels who all play different instruments and styles.
Connie Purchase’s son started taking guitar lessons 10 years ago and decided to begin piano with Salciccia herself.
“I tried before but never stuck with it,” Purchase said. “With Mary Alice, you learn chords right away and can start playing. It is always fun, and it’s amazing that you can sit down and start playing.”
Purchase’s husband has started piano lessons, and her family enjoys playing together.
Salciccia’s first book was released in October from Blysster Publishing.
“Mary had no idea I was a publisher,” said Charity Becker of Blysster Publishing. “I met her and needed a music teacher for my kids. I was always hesitant because, when I took lessons growing up, it was boring. Mary is anything but boring. She is bubbly, friendly and fun.
“I asked to see her book, and I was impressed. You feel accomplished because there is so much on every page that you learn. It’s never boring.”
Salciccia called her chance meeting with Becker “serendipitous.”
“Her children needed a music teacher, and she was happy to help me get my books published after I started teaching them,” Salciccia said. “It all dropped in my lap to work out and makes all the difference in the world to have a publisher who know all the ins and outs of the business.”
Becker believes in the book and how it works after she saw success with her own children.
“We would love to keep publishing Mary Alice’s books,” Becker said. “They have already been very successful in the marketplace.”
“Hello Music” is the first of many books to come. Salciccia has written 20 and plans to publish the entire series. The next one may be out next year.
Her books are currently available on Amazon.com, Borders and on Blysster Publishing and Salciccia’s websites.
Salciccia’s hope is to get the books into non-traditional stores for people to buy, because the first book doesn’t require an instrument, just a desire to learn music.
“There has been a great response from people, and sales have been good,” Salciccia said after the first month since the release.
Salciccia’s creativity doesn’t stop with teaching music. She started making jewelry, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces for the Winter Warmup festival, which will be held later this month at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn. She also enjoys painting and clay projects.
A self-proclaimed color fanatic, Salciccia sees not only her bead work and art, but music as a color, too.
“Music is like blending colors,” she said. “Each note represents a color. I hear music in color.
“I want students to be happy and successful. It’s not about the notes, but a mind-and-body connection with music is something that can make you feel better. Learning music shouldn’t be work, but fun. As long as students come with a willing spirit, I want to lay a foundation for them and teach them the art of music.”