In the fall of 1990, shortly after moving to Highland, Maria Peterson started private lessons teaching piano with six students. Now, 30 years later Peterson finds herself teaching piano to over 125 students a week at her studio, The Peterson Studio.
Highland is a very generational community according to Peterson, meaning that a lot of the residents grew up there with their parents, and started their own families there. Peterson remembers feeling like the odd one out 30 years ago when she started her career here.
“Now I realize, wow, I’ve been living and working here for 30 years and I’m not on the outside anymore,” Peterson said. “It’s been really cool.”
Throughout Peterson’s 30 years here her studio has always been connected to her house. When her children were little she would watch them during the day, and when their dad came home she would teach students. Though Peterson has moved a number of times over the years, she always taught out of her house, whether it be the living room or in a dedicated studio above the garage. Peterson bought a house two years ago which she just finished renovating to include a studio for her to teach in.
“I have a private teaching room that doubles as my office, a larger room that houses all of the keyboards, and a waiting room,” Peterson said. “It’s been really wonderful to be here and to grow every year.”
With all of the growth that The Peterson Studio has seen over the decades, Peterson has needed to hire some assistants to help her teach. Bianca Checa and Joel Carpenter teach with Peterson at the studio, and she finds that they help her immerse herself in different teaching styles.
“They are young and dynamic, they have energy and enthusiasm” Peterson gushed. “Working with young teachers is the best thing, they definitely rejuvenate me.”
Peterson is known for her unique way of teaching her students in a group setting, rather than one on one. Students stay in her studio for double the time of a private lesson, and each student gets time with Peterson alone while also having time to practice in the studio. Peterson says this helps the student reinforce what they’re learning before they go home to practice for the week, and it gives parents an affordable way to have their children in the studio for longer.
“Maria is kind, nurturing and an exceptional teacher, the Peterson Studio has become a part of our family,” Crista Burke, whose three children take lessons from Peterson, said.
Peterson has touched the lives of countless children in the past 30 years, and even 30 years later her first students still remember their time with her fondly.
“I was Maria’s first student,” Christina Allen said. “She was always kind, patient and caring. She was a wonderful role model for me to have as a young girl.”
Peterson also teaches classes which help her students appreciate music, so they understand the music they’re playing rather than just playing it because she told them to.
“I grew so much under her direction,” Tracy Beauregard, one of Peterson’s first students, said. “She encouraged my musicianship across all of my endeavors and allowed me to realize dynamics in the music I was playing. I recently found the note she wrote for me for my high school graduation and the love and care she had for me is so evident.”
When COVID-19 caused a mandatory quarantine in March, Peterson was able to transition to all online learning in only a week, and managed to keep at least 90 percent of her students through online learning. Starting in the summer, once restrictions were starting to lift, Peterson started in-person classes again and is adhering to COVID-19 protocols which involve everyone wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitizing the equipment. Peterson was planning on having an open house and a small celebration for her 30 year anniversary, but due to COVID-19 she’s going to hold off until next year.
“Starting off with six students in my living room, I never could have imagined it would grow to this point,” Peterson said. “Each year I get the same butterflies, the same excitement, and it’s just so rewarding.”