Pitt Meadows piano teacher looks to boost creativity and throw out the rule book

Isabella Imbriani has been teaching music differently in Pitt Meadows for over two years
Isabella Imbriani, centre, with two of her students. Photo supplied.

Before they touch a keyboard, Isabella Imbriani asks her new students to trace their hand.

On a piece of paper, she tells them to draw around their palm and over each finger — the digits that, in a matter of minutes, will hover over the piano and play a melody.

After the drawing is placed beside the piano, Imbriani will ask her students a series of questions: What is their favourite colour? What is their favourite animal? What sound does that animal make? 

She will also have students hit random keys on the piano to become familiar with the noises, and ask them if the sounds remind them of anything. 

The opening sequence fosters creativity behind the piano, Imbriani said.

“I like to let people do their own thing of what they think fits them,” Imbriani said. “I don’t like the rules [of piano] at all.” 

Music has long been associated with following a set of rules.

A conductor stands in front of an orchestra and instructs musicians to play their respective instruments. Sheets of music are littered with notes that each require a certain sound. Even video games like Guitar Hero judge people on their ability to follow the tune of a song. 

Growing up in Pitt Meadows, like many other musicians, Imbriani was taught piano by the book. 

Now, she’s trying to change that perception. 

Falling in love with the piano

Imbriani started playing piano at the age of two.

Her grandma, who was a piano teacher, fostered her love for music and encouraged her with sweet treats.

“I had this one song, I don’t even remember what it’s called, but I kept making the same mistake over and over,” Imbriani said. “Finally, I got it right and she made me a whole cake in celebration of the one note.” 

When she turned four, though, Imbriani began taking professional piano lessons. She took lessons into her 20s and passed the Royal Conservatory of Music exams, a prestigious national music education program.

Throughout her adolescence, music was her form of self expression. 

She loved how piano was a universal language — playable to people across the world — and how songs could comfort you on a down day, or get you pumped up on a happy day.

“Across the world, it’s all the same,” she said. “Anybody from wherever can pick up a piece of sheet music and know what to do with it… It’s so inclusive of everyone.” 

Although she enjoyed going through lessons, all of her instructors told her to follow each note, and she was never allowed to play songs for fun — unless it was during her own free time.  

And then Imbriani started teaching piano in her late teens. 

She worked for a couple businesses across the Lower Mainland, but after a few years, she decided to launch her own teaching service, Meraki Music, in May 2021. 

“I was super scared that I wasn’t going to be successful,” she said. 

But in a little over two years, her teaching style has attracted people of all ages from across Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows — including elementary school-aged kids and one woman in her mid-70s.

Imbriani has a total of 45 students, and she will teach up to 10 of them per day. 

“Word of mouth is huge for me,” Imbriani said. “It’s been scary, but I feel like if you have a good reputation and a supportive clientele, then it’s fine.” 

Placing the emphasis on students

The core of Imbriani’s teaching philosophy is simple. 

Like her grandma taught her years ago, she wants her students to have fun behind the keyboard and not fixate on messing up a note when they play. 

“I love painting, I love drawing, I love all types of art,” she said. “So I like to incorporate that somehow into the lesson.” 

One time, two of her students, a pair of sisters aged six and four, were playing a song called “My Invention.” But the song didn’t sound like it was an invention, the sisters said. 

They both asked Imbriani if they could change the title to “Knock, Knock at The Door,” as the notes had a similar rhythm to someone knocking on a door.

“I let them be creative in that sense,” Imbriani said. “That’s where the artistry comes into play, knowing what you’re listening for, I think it helps [their piano skills] a lot.” 

Her philosophy has also worked with people who, normally, may be more interested in video games or movies than a piano. 

For example, she has taught songs from Encanto, Harry Potter, and the Super Mario Bros. to the delight of her younger students. 

“I have these two little boys, they love video games and their mom struggles to get them to practise or do anything with the piano,” she said. “We learned Mario’s theme song and they started to love it.” 

Imbriani recently hired another local teacher to join her staff, and the two have dreams of teaching piano to more students of all ages. 

But no matter how much her teaching service grows, the core of her business will revolve around the creativity of whoever is sitting behind the piano. 

“I feel like if you incorporate something in music that they enjoy in their daily lives, they will be more successful,” she said. 


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