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Private Music Lessons

At Woodlawn Arts Academy, we strive to offer quality music education and to build self-confidence, and a lifelong respect and appreciation of music. Our vision is to provide the foundation to make it possible for all students to attain their personal goals.

The Academy has four music studios, a piano lab and a rock band studio. We offer lessons for a variety of instruments for age 4 to adult. The instructor is the best judge of a student’s ability. Our highly qualified staff strives to make sure that all of our lessons are educational, professional and, most of all, fun!

How to Register

Registration is held in late July or early August for returning students, and in early August for students new to Woodlawn Arts Academy private music lessons. Second-, third-, fourth- and summer-session registration information will be available early to those students registered in the previous session. Registration notices will be sent via email. Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date so you receive the notices in a timely manner. These registrations can be done at the Woodlawn Arts Academy main office or by calling (815) 626-4278. See the Calendar for due dates. Students who have not completed registrations by these dates could lose their time slot. New students may register for lessons in open time slots after the published dates. No participants may change time slots until after the registration due date.

We are given exact days and times of availability from instructors. If the instructor’s schedule changes, we will do our best to accommodate you so that you can select the best time slot for you and your family. If there is not a time slot that works, a pro-rated refund or credit will be issued at the discretion of the administrative staff. If the student’s schedule changes and you are unable to continue any lessons at any time, please notify the office immediately. We will do our best to find you an appropriate time slot; if none is available, a pro-rated refund or credit will be issued at the discretion of the administrative staff.


Each student is placed with an instructor that suits his or her instrument of choice, level of expertise, and schedule. As students progress, the instructor will communicate with the student and/or parents regarding any adjustments that should be made to the student’s music education.

Summer Lessons

Summer music lessons are offered as an introduction to or as a continuation of our regular music program. During the summer session, the focus is to continue development of technique or try new instruments. Students who take summer music lessons may progress faster than students who take the summer off.

Instructors & Instruments

Our instructors teach students of various levels & ages. We classify those levels as Beginner (1), Intermediate (2), Advanced (3) & Collegiate (4).

Nadine Appel (P)

  • Piano (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=6

Nadine came to Woodlawn Arts Academy in 2015. Nadine began teaching piano out of her home in rural Thomson in 2002 and moved to Chadwick in 2014, where she continues to teach. She has a bachelor of arts degree in early childhood education and works in the birth to 3 program for Regional Office of Education #47. Nadine also plays the organ and has played for several different churches in the area.

Clea Arbogast (A)

  • Piano (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=6

Clea has been with Woodlawn Arts Academy since 2023. She started playing piano at age 5 and has been playing ever since. Clea serves as the choir accompanist for Emmanual Lutheran Church in Rockford. Her role has allowed her to share her passion for music in both sacred and secular settings, also playing for weddings, funerals, celebrations and a few cocktail hours. Clea’s teaching career includes a background in K-5 general music education, and she is experienced in jazz, classical, traditional and contemporary sacred music, and even has some fun with the occasional show tune or video game soundtrack. She also plays organ and flute. Clea believes in fostering a love for music in her students, emphasizing creativity, expression and technical proficiency.

Gavin Fischer (A)

  • Voice (1)
  • Ages=5-10 *Because vocal chords are not fully developed at these ages, these lessons are for learning to read music and ear training.

Mardi Huffstutler (S)

  • Voice (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=11

Mardi has been with the Academy since 2013, and has been a private vocal/performance coach since 1980. She has a bachelor of music education degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s of divinity from Northern Seminary. She is currently IMEA District VIII Junior Treble Choir chairperson. In 1998 she recorded a CD of CCM music in Nashville, and she has been a featured soloist on numerous occasions, from classical to jazz to rock. She has vast experiences vocally and theatrically throughout the United States. Mardi is available for weddings, vocals and flute: (815) 440-0932, mardihfstlr@hotmail.com.

Ramiro Martinez (S)

  • Percussion (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=9
  • No virtual lessons

Ramiro has been teaching since 1975 and has been with the Academy since it opened in 2006. He instructs percussion at Rock Falls, Rochelle and Geneseo high schools, Challand Middle School and Woodlawn Arts Academy. He is also the drum instructor for Kreider Services’ Petunia City Stix and is the Executive Director of the Rhythm-Quest Performance Ensemble, which got its start at Woodlawn in the fall of 2007.

James Miller (P)

  • Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=6

James started teaching at Woodlawn in 2021. Born and raised in Dixon, he is a retired construction worker and has been a professional musician since the mid-1970s, currently with The Downtown Rhythm Kings, as well as Lyle Grobe and the Rhythm Ramblers. He aso plays every Sunday at First Baptist Church in Dixon. James is married to Joyce, and they have four children and eight grandchildren. James is available for contract work by calling 815-973-7501 or emailing jmmystro54@gmail.com.

Nicole Oberg (S)

  • Baritone, Clarinet, Flute, French Horn, Saxophone, Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba (1,2,3,4)
  • Minimum age=9

Originally from Skokie and now living in Sterling with her husband, Erik, and sons, Henry and Karsten, Nicole has served on the ILMEA Board of Directors as District 8 President. She has taught (age 3/4) early childhood music, general music, and high school and adult choir, but the majority of her career has been spent in the public schools teaching junior high and high school band. Nicole currently teaches part-time middle school band in Sterling and directs the adult choir at First Presbyterian Church in Sterling in addition to teaching music lessons at Woodlawn Arts Academy. She practices Reiki and meditation, and enjoys crafting and learning about new things. Outside of Woodlawn, Nicole is a Reiki Master Teacher and owner/practitioner at Sauk Valley Reiki in Sterling. For details on Sauk Valley Reiki, contact her at (815) 566-1102 or saukvalleyreiki@gmail.com. You can find Sauk Valley Reiki on Facebook at facebook.com/saukvalleyreiki.

If an instrument for which you would like lessons is not listed, please inquire with the office. 


Fees vary according to instructor education & experience. Those instructors at the APPRENTICE (A) level are those with an associate’s degree or a few years of teaching experience; lessons with an apprentice instructor are $115 per 8-week session. Those instructors at the PROFESSIONAL (P) level have a bachelor’s degree or five-plus years of teaching experience; lessons with a professional instructor are $135 per 8-week session. Those instructors at the SPECIALIST (S) level have a master’s degree or 10-plus years of teaching experience. Lessons with a specialist instructor are $155 per 8-week session. Students must pay for the entire session in advance, & time slots are not held without full payment.

Payment Plan Options

Woodlawn Arts Academy offers three payment options for school-year programs.

  • Monthly option: Register for all private lessons for the full school year and have your payment automatically withdrawn from your account monthly on the date of your choice. A checking or savings account, or debit or credit card, may be used for this option. When using a checking or savings account, please be prepared to provide your bank’s routing number as well as your account number.
  • School-year option: Register for all private lessons for the full school year and make full payment at the start of the school year. When using this option, a 5% discount on your total bill will be given. Check, cash or debit/credit cards are accepted.
  • Per-session option: Students may also register prior to each 8-week session. Full payment for each session is due the Friday prior to the date registration opens to new students. See the Calendar for due dates.

Registration is not complete until full payment is made or financial assistance funding is in place.

Times & Sessions

All private instruction is done in half-hour lessons, once per week, in eight-week sessions, with five sessions per calendar year. See our Calendar for registration dates and the Session Schedule. Instructors will not make up lessons that students have missed, & will only offer make-up lessons in the event the instructor misses a lesson or the Academy was closed on the normal lesson day.


Students are required to supply their own instrument, and will be asked to purchase lesson books, sheet music and/or other materials, which vary by instructor, in addition to the private lesson tuition. Students are expected to bring their music and instrument (in most cases) to the lesson with them. While each instrument is different, all require at-home practice between lessons. Please check with your instructor for practice recommendations specific to your instrument and student. If you have questions regarding purchasing or renting an instrument, or having an instrument repaired, call the Academy office at (815) 626-4278 to contact your instructor for recommendations.


At Woodlawn Arts Academy, we feel that performance is a key part of the learning process. All students are expected (though not required) to perform in the winter and spring music recitals. The winter music recitals are held in January at the end of the second session and in May near the end of the fourth session. Both are typically performed off-site due to the large number of participants. Spring recital dates and locations may vary by instructor. See the Calendar for exact dates. If the student will not be in the recital, inform the instructor so that the programs can be planned accordingly.

If a student has participated in lessons at Woodlawn Arts Academy for at least two consecutive years leading into his/her senior year in high school, he/she may be invited to perform a senior recital. All senior recital content must be approved by the instructor.

Besides the winter and spring recitals, other performance opportunities will be announced throughout the year. Students are encouraged to perform often.

Recital Attire

Appropriate recital attire is required for all performances. Girls/women should wear a dress or a skirt/dress pants, dress shirt and dress shoes. Boys/men should wear a dress shirt, dress pants, dark socks and dress shoes. Jeans, cargo pants, T-shirts, tennis shoes, etc. are not appropriate performance attire.

Recital Rehearsals

Mandatory rehearsals are typically scheduled the evening before the recital. During rehearsals, students practice where to sit, how to go on and off stage, and review manners and behavior for the recital. This is NOT an opportunity to practice their songs; that should be done at home! Parents and family members are asked to wait in the lounge or outside the performance area during the rehearsal.

Audience Etiquette

Family and friends are encouraged to attend! Admission to musical recitals is minimal. During the recital, we ask all audience members to follow appropriate etiquette. Cell phones should be turned off. Audience members should remain seated during performances and only move between performances. Applause at the appropriate time is encouraged, but we discourage talking during a performance. It is expected that audience members and students stay for the duration of the recital. Photography and videotaping are allowed during the recitals, but please refrain from using flash photography as it distracts the students.

Recital Planning

Please turn in any conflicts you have as soon as possible. Rehearsal dates and times can be accommodated for you if you let us know your conflicts in advance. If you know ahead of time that you cannot make a performance, let your instructor know well in advance, as music is chosen as early as three months before the recital. In case of emergency absence for a weekday rehearsal or performance, call the office at (815) 626-4278 as soon as possible. In an emergency for Saturday rehearsals or performances, please contact your instructor directly if possible. Photography and videotaping are allowed during the recitals, but please refrain from using flash photography as it distracts the students.

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