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Longmont music school addresses mental health

Mountain Time is not a music therapy program

Along with teaching students how to play an instrument, Mountain Time Music School in Longmont promotes mental wellness through music.

Co-founders and instructors Benjamin Sevy, director of education, and Matheus Pagliacci, director of marketing, opened the all-ages school at 1427 Coffman St. last August. 

Their offerings focus on the duo’s own musical expertise — Sevy plays saxophone and Pagliacci plays piano — but they offer lessons on multiple instruments including drums, clarinet and flute. Pagliacci offers classes with multicultural emphasis, grounding the lessons on his Brazilian background.

Pagliacci and Sevy met during their master’s program in Kentucky when they talked about opening a music school that helps students express their emotions. Growing up in Berthoud and later working as a substitute teacher in Longmont and Lyons, Sevy said he saw peers and students struggling with their mental health in the northern Colorado region. 

Sevy currently teaches music at Hygiene Elementary School in addition to Mountain Time.

“We just talked a lot about what we're doing after the masters and decided we both had visions of really growing a company that can help the mental health of people through music, not just teach how to play good music and get into college but really kind of help the area,” Sevy said. “I saw the mental health going down in the Thompson Valley district and the St. Vrain Valley district, and I thought, well, we can make a difference here through our lessons as we grow.”

While Mountain Time is not a music therapy program — as Sevy and Pagliacci don’t have counseling backgrounds — they see music as a way to process difficult emotions.

Though Pagliacci plays music often as a professional pianist, he still makes time to play piano for himself as self therapy.

“If I am sad, or anxious or something, and if I don't spend like a little bit on the piano and the week, I feel like I get worse,” Pagliacci said.

Both instructors started playing instruments young, and have had positive and negative experiences with teachers. Since the majority of their students are elementary to middle school age, they try to make their early exposures to music fun.

“People think, ‘Oh piano, I need to study eight hours a day. I need to read music.’ Well, I first want them to come here,” Pagliacci said. “My job is to make them love music. That's my first job, and the first thing to teach them, and then we go from there.”

Music technique is a tool for expression, he added. Rather than teaching students piano in a rigid manner, he lets them first become familiar with the sound of the keys and incorporates proper posture as they progress.

Sevy said during his lessons he likes to sneak in performance techniques, such as how to present themselves on stage or recover from a mess up. 

“I put performance technique in just anywhere when we can do it. So they might play a little bit of a scale. And they might just play two notes,” he said. “And then I tell them at the end, ‘Surprise, you just did a performance!’” 

To encourage musical expression, students get to choose the songs they work on. Mountain Time instructors either find sheet music for their student’s favorite songs or write it down by ear.

Mountain Time encourages students to express themselves beyond music. Students have a say in their lessons and can dance, sing, jump or just have a conversation, Pagliacci said.

“I try to first create an environment of empowerment,” he said. “To let the person be comfortable with the teaching environment, because I'm a facilitator, I don't want to have all the answers because I don't have. So I try to understand how that person learns if it’s an adult or child, and try to go from there and build a curriculum based on what that person brings.”