Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Lana Bodnar, the executive director and founder of the Music and Arts Conservatory of Santa Barbara. She shared with me a few important points for students who may want to join the program, as well as a few words about her own connections with music.
How did MAC get started?
I founded this “artistic sandbox” myself in 1989. This means MAC will soon be celebrating our thirtieth anniversary.
What inspires you to have taught for as long as you have?
I was six years old when I decided to be a teacher. My first experience was at eleven years old, in Germany, during the war, teaching younger children how to dance. The reason I teach music is because I came from a family of musicians.
What was your first experience with music?
My mother was an opera singer, and they sometimes had house rehearsals, so from the very start I was surrounded by music. I knew about musical theatre from watching my uncle act in an opera featuring Tchaikovsky’s music, written by Onegin. He got “killed” in a duel during the second act and the audience started clapping because it was his last appearance in the show, so he got up and started to bow. I remember that I was only five years old, and I turned my back to the audience because I was so embarrassed–dead people don’t get up!
Who are your favorite composers?
Probably Brahma, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff, for piano. I like to teach Bach and I enjoy listening to Henry Mancini’s film scores.
What, in your opinion, is the most important thing about being educated in music and the arts in general?
The first thing is that you will never get bored in your life because you can be creative at any age and you will always have something enjoyable to turn to. It was not a conscious decision, just something that seemed very satisfying as a way of life. In fact, there is no bad music–only music badly executed or performed.
What are the different classes that MAC offers?
Poetry, Improv, Art, Music Appreciation, Choir, and Chamber Music are the classes we have right now. I really do not like to think of them as classes–they are meetings where we discover different forms of expressing ourselves.
What would teens enjoy doing at MAC?
We have a senior program for our teens, which offers poetry and chamber music. MAC supplies a very safe environment–everyone is open, supportive, and not judgmental. After all, you can’t create yourself by dreaming–you have to express yourself to achieve those dreams.
What are students who have been through MAC doing? What colleges have MAC alumni gone to and what professions have they chosen after college?
They have attended and are currently attending Harvard, Yale, Stanford, New England Conservatory, M.I.T., Westlake, Taft, and other prestigious schools. About forty percent have become professional musicians and artists. Many of these students have gone on to become professional jazz musicians, opening for top performers in the jazz community. Others have become everything from politicians to filmmakers. One of my former students even wrote the piano score for La La Land (Justin Hurwitz).
Ms. Bodnar sincerely hopes she will see some of you as new members this year! Courses have just begun (meeting every Saturday from nine a.m. to twelve p.m.), and enrollment is open to all.
What do you want students to take away from the experience of being in MAC?
Just to be happy with who they are–a happy life with variety and creative opportunities. Our students make friends for life. Some students come back as guests (for example, piano and guitar playing alum Sio Tepper, who mentions that “At MAC, I felt, I could make my own life path!”). Others even come back as instructors. We offer the Inspire program, which supports homeschooled students with the diverse education they need to succeed.