"I really enjoyed the beginner guitar class! Ben is super friendly and knowledgeable. We started each class with a check-in about our weeks and then dove into a new concept or song. We learned a lot, from chords to fingerstyle to songwriting. It was really cool to be in a music class with both JMU students and other members of the Harrisonburg community. This class was a great way for me to get back into my love of music with a new instrument." - Alaine F., Spring 2023


"The voice classes were amazing and Denise is a fantastic teacher. She covered a broad scope of important dynamics for singing. I learned that proper singing technique really involves the whole body. We learned the anatomy of vocal cords, how they work, and how to keep them healthy, and anatomy and function of proper breath support related to the diaphragm. Denise taught many different exercises to make us physically stronger & better singers, but also how relaxing facial muscles is critical to good singing tone. Overall the course was better than I hoped and I'm very happy I signed up. I learned a lot and feel more confident singing and sound better. I'm motivated to continue practice all the things Denise taught." - Laurie W., Spring 2023


"The instructor encouraged us to sing loudly without judging ourselves or others. So we have fun singing in class. I also learned that even the talented people need to practice singing regularly so I plan to sing 3 days a week." - Leah B., Spring 2023


"I so enjoyed the change to sing regularly in a supportive environment in the JMU Music Academy Intermediate Voice Class. Learning more about the physiological processes of singing also helped me to improve and grow as a singer. The chance to work on my own vocal technique with expert guidance and reminders (about breathing, muscle relaxation, resonance, etc.) was such a pleasure!" - Heidi P., Spring 2023


"The beginner vocal class was an excellent class on the mechanics of using one's sing voice. Denise was very knowledgeable on voice training and also shared many tidbits on vocal use. Money well spent." - Tim W., Spring 2023


"As a freshman at JMU, the Music Academy vocal class was a fun way to try something new and learn how to sing! I took the beginner and intermediate class and enjoyed exploring my own unique voice. Professor Denise is a wonderful teacher who will tap into your hidden potential." - Jason N., Spring 2023


“I’m well into my grad program at JMU and I thought it might be a little silly to learn an instrument at this point in my life, but I walked into my first class nervous and expecting that it was either going to be nursery rhymes on the piano, or really complicated music notation stuff. It was a group class for “all levels,” so part of me thought this was not a good way to learn. To my surprise, Natalie single handedly taught maybe around 10-12 of us all at different levels! Most of us beginner level, but we all had different skills. I thought it would be a while before I could learn a “real song” but we probably learned 7 pop culture songs in total. I learned more than I could by myself and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Natalie has a way of teaching you the basics in the simplest way, and without feeling like practice is a “chore.” I found myself wanting to practice outside of class almost every time I learned something new and I think it’s a real testament to how good of a musician and instructor Natalie is. I am committed to continuing piano thanks to my experience in her class. Piano has become somewhat of a therapy to me too! So, don't hesitate!” - Kiana M., Spring 2023 


"I really enjoyed the 'Music of Color' piano class. It's been a long, long time since I played any sort of music. Lessons were approachable for people of any skill. And, more important than what we learned, understanding how each of us learns and listens as an individual was the greatest takeaway of all that will help me continue to practice on my own." - David P., Summer 2022


"I had the opportunity to take two piano classes this summer with the JMU Music Academy, and they were both great! I love the group interaction, and Natalie is an amazing piano teacher and coach. She is an incredible listener, and she has creative and insightful ways to help each participant learn how to learn the piano to reach their goals. She makes it a safe space to grow, learn, and appreciate music together. I highly recommend it." - Emily Y., Summer 2022


"The five-week 'Music of Color' course was the first group music course I had been in since seventh grade. I have had lots of private lessons for guitar and piano over the past fifteen or so years and I didn't know what to expect. I was a little skeptical that much could be achieved with the instructor having to divide her time so much. It was far better than I had expected. Rather than focus on technique, it was more about encouraging us to think about what our goals are in making music, to be more open to experimentation and to see what other musical traditions can bring to our own playing with lots of good suggestions on ways to improvise. It was a great addition to my summer." - Zach P., Summer 2022

music-academy-testimonial-1.png"I initially signed up on a whim for the JMU Music Academy after seeing the Film Scores class. I thought it would be fun and worth a try. I hoped that it would help my stale and limited knowledge of piano blossom a bit. Since I work at JMU, the Friday afternoon class time was perfect. As we approached the first class I began to doubt my decision and grew nervous. Not five minutes inot the first class any apprehension and nerves totally faded away. Natalie's kind and patient personality combined with her practical approach to teaching piano made me realize I was going to enjoy the class and get more out of it than I had ever hoped. Not only have I learned the pieces from the class, I have learned simple and basic skills to apply as I move forward after the completion of the class. I hate to see it end, but I know my work on the piano and music understanding is only beginning because of the skills learned here. Thank you!" - Kristen H.


"After I retired, I decided to give piano another try, having a not-very-fulfilling or productive experience in my youth. I signed up for JMU Music Academy. What impressed me was how interested Natalie, our instructor, was in trying to figure out what my special abilities and interests were. I found myself enjoying and looking forward to class every week. Every class consisted of sight reading, playing melody with chords, and improvisation. There was something for everyone! Natalie has the unique gift of being able to inspire and motivate; her feedback always constructive and yet gentle. A whole new world has opened up to me, thanks to her." - Anne H., Retired JMU Professor Emeritusmusic-academy-testimonial-2.png


"I have been having so much fun playing! I am so thankful for the Music Academy virtual lessons. It has been very empowering. It's so nice to feel like I can play again! Thanks for all you've invested in teaching us!" - Cedar J., Virtual Participant, Fall 2020


"As a former piano student during childhood, JMU Music Academy offered a perfect fit to resume playing piano as an adult. After two semesters, including both in-person and virtual instruction, I was able to build immensely on my beginner foundation in sight reading, music theory, and technique. The instructor, Natalie Doughty, provided engaging lessons that were attainable yet challenging enough to keep me motivated to continue learning and playing. The group format also created a fun, welcoming environment to learn with and from peers. I highly recommend Music Academy as a solid foundation to jump right into the rewards of playing piano!" - April T., Virtual Participant, Fall 2020


"I registered for the class really not knowing what to expect and I don’t want it to finish! One of my interests was learning to play using chords and after just 12 weeks, I can play several songs using a guitar chord book at the piano.  In addition to refreshing my sight-reading skills, I learned that improvising is fun and anyone can do it!  It really was a creative, non-pressured environment and I learned more than I ever thought I would." - Janice G.


"I thoroughly enjoyed taking group piano lessons.  My wonderful teacher was very patient and kind!! It was also fun to interact with other people that I had not met before.  We became friends and we had a lot of fun.  I found myself looking forward to classes each week!" - Towana


"When I first started to play piano, I couldn't relax because I was so worried that I wasn't playing the music perfectly. I learned that it was okay to make those mistakes and that empowered me to play how I felt. With the warmup improv sessions, I gained the confidence to explore and experiment without worrying if I was playing "right." The greatest lesson that I learned in the JMU Music Academy has been to trust myself; trust that I know where I am on the keys and where I am in the music. I can never thank my instructor Natalie enough, and I cannot wait to play more! - Crystal I., Summer 2022


"My two semester participation in the piano classes of the JMU Music Academy were very rewarding. I rediscovered my long lost love of playing in an atmosphere that is professional and non-threatening.  I was amazed at the amount of information that was covered in a once-a-week class as well as the high quality of instruction." - Cynthia T.


"My experience with the adult piano course has met above and beyond my expectations! Learning the piano has always been on my bucket list and I’m so glad I finally took this step. I’ve learned so much in just a few short weeks. I went from not knowing how to read a single note to being able to actually read sheet music along with learning 3 different hand positions, chords, and musical terminology. I can’t believe I’m playing songs written from Chopin, Bach and Mozart! I enjoy my peaceful time practicing at home. I’ve always admired those musicians that can de-stress and get lost in their music. I can finally have that 'me' time!" - Patti C.


"I found the Music Academy group lessons to be fun, informative, and collaborative—we learn from and support each other!  As a result, I have regained my motivation to learn and play the piano, and I would unhesitatingly recommend the program to anyone, young or old, who aspires to develop their own musical interests!" - Steve P.

Anne's Testimonial
Susan's Testimonial
Cynthia's Testimonial
Libby's Testimonial
Hong's Testimonial

Music Academy

Natalie Doughty

Natalie Doughty
Piano Instructor/

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