The academy was established in 1985 and had 80 students. Professionals in the Cape Girardeau community, Southeast Missouri State University faculty members and student instructors now teach 250 students through the university-affiliated programs.
Student instructors are recommended by professors in their respective departments at Southeast. Some students from the community teach as well, such as Advance High School senior Wesley Garner who is a piano instructor and a former academy student.
The academy provides students from the Cape Girardeau community and surrounding areas with private lessons, group classes, musicianship classes and a Suzuki violin program.
"The main difference between studying with just a private teacher in the community and studying here is that all of our students have access to musicianship classes along with their private lessons, where they do music theory and studying different stuff in music and then also learning how to write their own compositions, which is a really cool thing," academy director and piano instructor Rebecca Fulgham said.
The Suzuki violin program is based on the teachings of the late Japanese educator Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, who believed that young children could learn to play an instrument through imitation and listening to the music, similar to the way they learn language by listening to it being spoken.
Students in the Suzuki violin classes play in large groups and many have started playing as young as 3 years old. Lessons are also offered on any orchestral or band instrument, classical guitar, composition, voice, harp and piano.
Kaitlyn Robinson, a junior vocal performance major at Southeast, is a student teacher at the Southeast Missouri Music Academy and teaches private voice classes and group voice classes. The students learn art songs, theatre music and Disney songs, and Robinson said she hopes to introduce some pop music as well because the kids enjoy that. She said her students range from second grade to ninth grade and that she benefits from the lessons as well.
"A lot of what I teach is from what I've learned. I take those examples from the teachers I've had, especially my private lessons," Robinson said. "You do these things with the children, so it's still a learning experience for you."
Fulgham often instructs older students, including a 60-year-old new student who is learning how to play the piano. She has also had students who took lessons from her at the academy, majored in piano at Southeast, went to graduate school and now teach lessons through the academy. Two examples Fulgham mentioned are Southeast collaborative pianist Matt Yount and Tyson Wunderlich, who is in charge of the music program at Saxony Lutheran High School in Jackson, Mo.
"It's always fun to watch the kids grow," Fulgham said.
Aside from lessons, the academy is involved in the community by providing scholarships for financially disadvantaged students and performing at area nursing homes and hospitals. This community outreach and the educational music programs qualify the academy for full membership in the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.
Students also have the opportunity to perform in a recital at the end of each semester, as well as participate in other performance opportunities throughout the year. Southeast provides students with access to the performance facilities at the River Campus, but does not monetarily support the academy.
The academy is supported through student tuition. Students can register for full semester 16-week classes, or choose 12 weeks, 8 weeks or 4 weeks. Tuition rates are lower for classes taught by student instructors.
For information on the academy or registration call the office in Brandt Hall at 573-651-2378 or go to semomusicacademy.org.