Mickey Leone is the founder of the new Chestnut Hill Music Academy.

Mickey Leone is the founder of the new Chestnut Hill Music Academy.

by JB Hyppolite

Mickey Leone, a lifelong Chestnut Hill area resident who has been teaching music for over 25 years, opened the Chestnut Hill Music Academy (CHMA) last month in St. Paul’s Church. A professional musician since the age of 14 when he began playing drums in rock bands, Mickey is the director and guitar teacher at the new academy. Mickey’s own musical influences run from blues to country to jazz standards to southern rock.

“What you get at the Chestnut Hill Music Academy,” said Mickey, “is a variety of teachers to choose from on every instrument. With young children it’s really more about teaching the love of music and attitude about being a musician than it is technical things.”

Leone operated Makin Music, a parent-tot music program at the Water Tower Recreation Center, for 10 years as well as the Chestnut Hill Guitar School for many years. He is a long-time musical theater actor and executive producer and co-founder of Philadelphia Performance Project, a nonprofit theater company dedicated to original musical theater works. Mickey, who requested that his age not be mentioned, graduated from Springfield Township High School in 1970, holds a B.A. from La Salle University in sociology and a master’s degree from Chestnut Hill College in counseling psychology.

In 2010 he wrote the book and composed all the songs for the original musical theater production, “Week Between the Holidays,” which included a cast of 11 and a five-piece pit band. The show was part of the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival, where it played for three performances to packed houses.

Leone has also composed numerous songs for other musical theater productions. He has also acted for the Upper Dublin Players, Willow Manor Players and Jenkintown Music Theater.

Students at the new school will perform in concert four times a year at the St. Paul’s Church Hall. “When the kids see other kids performing, it often inspires them,” he said. “They say, ‘Wow, I’d love to play that kind of music; why don’t we do that?’ or ‘Wow, that kid’s really good. If I practiced hard, maybe I could get to be that good.’”

Leone declined to state any specifics about the academy’s financial arrangement with St. Paul’s, just that he has “an ongoing relationship” with the church. There are three special programs at CHMA. The rock school program puts a band together for an eight-week rehearsal schedule culminating in a performance on the main stage.

There is also an eight- to 10-week musical theater program where students learn the elements of song and dance, leading to an ensemble production at the end of the experience. CHMA’s third special program is based on the Suzuki method. (This is a method of teaching music conceived and executed by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shin’ichi Suzuki {1898–1998} dating from the mid-20th century. The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people are capable of learning from their environment.)

“I’ve always known that music is therapeutic,” said Mickey. “Listening to music and playing music is good for the soul. When I started to study counseling, it just seemed natural for me to get some training in the two interests … I believe all children are filled with music.”

Leone has two daughters in their 20s, Hannah and Rachel. His parents still reside in Springfield Township, where he grew up.

St Paul’s Church is located at 22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. For more information about the Chestnut Hill Music Academy, call 215-233-2560 or visit www.chestnuthillmusic.com.