Perform your Favorite Songs With Confidence!
Does this sound like you?….
You can't seem to find the right teacher that teaches you in a way that you can learn and improve.
Perhaps you feel stuck with getting a great sound because your embouchure is not set up properly.
Your community band music is really challenging, and you need to improve your technique and reading so you can perform it without mistakes.
You feel like you are playing the same licks over and over again, and want clarity on what and how to practice improvisation.
With your full time job and family, you have limited time to practice and need a quick, efficient practice routine so you can still make progress.
How do people have the time to practice and still sound good?
Ever notice how some people can get a new piece of music, and just read and play it effortlessly on the first shot?
Or you wonder how musicians get such a beautiful sound and it seems like they're not working hard?
Or how that saxophone and trumpet player can play those screaming high notes and not pop a vein?
Everyone asks those questions – you are not alone!
Many people feel that playing an instrument is something “magical”- you need to be born with talent in order to perform.
Is that really true?
Of course not! Here's why…
Most people have such hectic schedules, they can't seem to find the time to practice.
And when they do, they are not sure what to play, what order to play it in, and they run out of material to play or the music they want to play is too hard.
The secret is that the most successful musicians come up with a plan, and they make sure they carry it out each time they practice!
Imagine being able to sound better and better and actually hear the results because someone helped you create a plan that works…
Imagine playing those screaming high notes and looking really impressive to your friends all because someone showed you a system to improve your playing…
Imagine being able to go to the music store, find sheet music for your favorite songs, open up the book and be able to hear what the music sounds like in your head right there, without an instrument!
That sure would be nice, right?
Donna can get the same results for you!
If you are looking for a solution to your saxophone, trumpet or jazz improvisation struggles, you've come to the right place!
Donna's extensive background in Music and Psychology can help you make the progress you want to see and hear.
Studying Psychology and being a Social Worker helped Donna place herself in “other people's shoes” and relate to their problems and needs.
Being a top scholar in music programs in a number of Music Schools and the prestigious Tanglewood music camp has given her extensive knowledge of music.
But more importantly, Donna guides you in a much different way than others.
You learn about a process to understand music and are able to remember how to play simple songs with ease.
She guides you through warm-ups and exercises that make playing the songs effortless.
Knowing that you are super busy with a full time job and a family, she works with you to create a practice plan and schedule that helps you find some time each week to make progress.
In no time, you are feeling confident with your music performance and reading!
Here's why I can relate to each person and tailor specific goals to help them become successful….
When I was a young trumpeter, I was in a big trumpet class of over 20 students, cramped in a hot attic in my elementary school. NY schools did not have air conditioners and certainly not back in the 70's.
We were told to buy a method book (Breeze Easy) and get our own trumpet.
Our first lesson was learning how to form our lips to play the instrument AND work on page 1 of the book, which meant reading notes right away.
I didn’t have too much of an issue reading the notes yet, but I couldn’t form the lip setting to save my life. And I was not allowed to move ahead in the book until I got everything!
Frustrating was an understatement! I was embarrassed and ashamed.
My trumpet teacher in school, whose claim to fame was that he played trumpet for the late night television comedy shows back in the 1960's, would stand me up in front of all my peers and say to them, “This is what NOT to do!”
The other kids would tease me and I was mortified.
Every day, I would try to get a sound out and have no luck. I would throw the horn against my bed (I didn't want to break it) in anger.
I knew, deep down, that I could be a great player, but no one was explaining to me how to play!
Fortunately for me, my older sister was playing the Mellophone (like a Marching Band version of the French Horn), and she showed me what to do.
Granted, it wasn't the “best” setting for trumpet, but I got a sound out!!! I was elated, and practiced everyday. My confidence grew, and within a few months, I became the best player in 4th Grade.
I was honored to get accepted into All County ensembles throughout Elementary, Junior and Senior High Schools, as well as All State ensembles, and prestigious summer music camps.
Solving Embouchure Problems
Throughout Junior High and High School, I was starting to build the skill of problem solving embouchre issues by helping my peers play their instruments (clarinets, brass and saxophones).
But secretly, I was having my own problems building my range and endurance.
The thing was that I could read anything, but I didn't have the range and endurance I wanted and needed to play the advanced material my brain was ready for.
I could help others, but I couldn't help myself.
I didn't have a private teacher until high school, and we could only afford lessons every other week. And yet again, I didn't quite get what my trumpet teacher was trying to teach me. The school teachers focused on the concert music and some method book exercises – they didn't have time to help with embouchure issues.
So, I emulated my older peers, who were really good at using lots of air and also lots of pressure. I thought that's what trumpet players had to do in order to play high notes. Pain was normal, right?
It worked for a long time, but so many years of using excessive mouthpiece pressure and not understanding how to coordinate my lips with the air took its toll.
Like many other trumpeters, right out of High School and going into music school, my embouchure gave out. I literally could not play a note!
I was mortified because my brain could understand and play all the challenging music in front of me, but my lips couldn't.
I started to develop massive stage fright, which was something I was not familiar with.
I sought help from amazing players and teachers: Joe Foley, Vince Penzarella, Ed Treutel, Mel Broiles and Laurie Frink. I learned so much from them not only about playing, but also life in general.
Vince and Joe changed my mindset and use of air, Mel challenged my reading, transposition and musicality, and Ed and Laurie helped me problem-solve various embouchure issues.
With their guidance and my own hard work, I dug myself out of that horrible hole I fell into after high school.
Overcoming Performance Anxiety
At the time, I was so angry about all that was happening to my playing and my mindset.
Yes, I would get nervous – very nervous – before performances and auditions in high school, but I managed to perform well in spite of the nerves.
I felt like I became the weaker musicians I observed in high school – the ones who didn't practice or just didn't get how to play their instruments. They were always so embarrassed to perform out loud, and their body language said it too – they had hunched-over shoulders and always looked down.
Going from the best musician to the worst would have made anyone quit, but I was determined to conquer my problems.
During my undergraduate work in music, I decided to get a double major in Music and Psychology so I could help myself and others get through this nightmare.
I worked in Social Work types of jobs for a few years while continuing to practice and perform on trumpet.
I studied all the Research Journals and books on Performance Anxiety to understand the processes behind this fear and the different strategies people have used to overcome it. I even took a course at Juilliard to help get deeper into what the mind goes through and how to get past it.
A friend recommended some great books that exposed me to Meditation and Visualization techniques, which I use to this day.
During this time of doing my research and soul-searching, I also took up the Tenor Sax. I always loved the sound of saxes – when you're a child growing up in the 80's, who didn't love all those great R&R sax solos!
What was even more amazing was that I didn't have performance anxiety when I played Saxes. I studied my own thought processes as I performed on Saxes to help me overcome the stage fright I had on Trumpet.
Studying Psychology, researching Performance Anxiety and performing well on the Saxes gave me a ton of insight that would later help me teach others how to get past their own fears.
But while I was working in Social Work, I always felt the need to go back to doing what I loved – Music.
During my undergraduate studies, I was always encouraged to teach music in public schools. I even became president of my college NafMe (National Association of Music Education) chapter.
I believed strongly that music education was vital, but didn't feel that teaching in schools was my path.
After overcoming my own performing struggles, I felt the time was right for me to help others get a good start on their instruments and enjoy playing.
I made it a mission to make sure musicians of all ages and levels were having fun and not getting caught up in the mind games of stage fright.
I started to let my crazy sense of humor show when teaching. (I was always a nut at home….okay, I still am)
I noticed people learned better when they laughed. (And I was doing this BEFORE Ellen! Really!)
But I noticed students (even my older private students) were having a problem reading music…
I became known as the person to always “play it right” on the 1st shot because my reading was so good.
I figured out a system for reading music back then that I still use today with much success.
I couldn't understand why people had such difficulty reading music. You just sit there and do it, right?
When I was first teaching beginner students, I used the same methods I was taught for reading music: assign each page of the method book every week and hope they get it.
Some students DID get it, but what I noticed was that many didn’t.
Drop out rates were pretty high – I would have, on average, 7-8 students out of 50 quitting by the end of the year because “it’s too hard to read music.”
I always took each drop personally, because I felt that I tried every trick in the book to help them to “get the reading.”
When I spoke to other teachers, they said it was normal to have a lot of students quitting. “The students weren’t practicing enough or trying hard enough.” (Blaming the student)
This never felt right to me.
I also noticed that even with the kids that did get reading, their rhythms were either wrong or not steady.
Concerts were always a nightmare because I never knew if the students would speed up uncontrollably.
I was so frustrated and disheartened by the time summer arrived every year.
Then, one summer I took a course at the Hartt School of Music on improvisation. Since I loved Jazz, and wanted to find new ways to teach improvisation to my students, I thought this would be a great course to take.
Well…..it totally changed my life and my teaching forever!!!
The teacher, Chris Azzarra, was exposing us to a totally different way of learning music, which helped us learn the music better, understand it more thoroughly and become better musicians while enjoying learning.
That one course made me realize that I was approaching teaching music totally backwards to the way we really learn. (It also made me jealous because the students who were being trained in this “new” method were achieving amazing results in only a few years time.)
After that summer, I researched as much as I could about this teaching method and concepts, and pursued their certification in teaching instrumental music.
Once I started using the concepts behind this method of learning music, I saw a drastic change in my students.
My drop-out rate went from 7-8 out of 50 students to less than 3!
My enrollment numbers of beginners increased from 40 to an all time high of 67 (In a school with 150 4th & 5th grade students)!
More importantly, my students were able to play different parts at the same time and keep their rhythms steady for the first time ever!
My Jazz Band had the most improvement as my students were able to hear chord changes, and keep a solid groove without much effort.
How did I do this?
Unlike most teachers who feel pressured by administrators to have children read music, I bucked the trend and did NOT teach reading music until I was able to build their musical vocabulary.
Since I was getting great results, and the students were loving music and enjoying performing, I was not hassled by my administrators.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all that easy convincing people that this “new” method was the best way to teach. In fact, many teachers in my district were vehemently against what I was doing, even though I had the results.
I personally think it was because I had to do a lot more work and be a better musician in order to be an effective teacher. Some of my critics were so set in their ways and did not want to get away from the “cutesy games” that did not translate into actual learning.
But honestly, the best result was that my students were enjoying performing their favorite songs, and they were doing it within 10 weeks of starting the instrument.
The 30+ years of performing experience, with many of it with various bands in different genres, has helped expand my improvisation and find ways to teach others how to improvise in a sensible, easy to understand method.
“Donna not only gave be a variety of strategies to help improve my counting whilst improvising, whilst not stifling my artistic imagination. However, Donna did not stop there, she looked at my current goal and discussed how I had been very ambitious. We covered different approaches to studying the jazz standards, including starting off with a metronome session before adding backing tracks.
Amazing….I was no longer getting lost during soloing…. But did not feel stifled, in fact Better improvisation seemed to flow.
Donna was able to focus my goals and discuss with me a methodology that could help me get there. Already I have seen that this new regime is going to pay in spades. Donna has the ability to analyze what was needed and then discuss it in a way that made it not only palatable but has been the biggest positive change in my personal musical development this year.”
I have had great results with musicians of all ages and abilities
“I have been an Alto player all my life and played Tenor as needed. Lately I have really enjoyed playing the Tenor. While playing in the Altissimo has been a little easier on Alto, I have never been able to access the upper register on Tenor.
I finally broke down and started working on this and like everyone have found myself having trouble playing the Altissimo G!
Donna in her lesson helped with an exercise of singing through the mouthpiece then playing the note. As I am still having trouble with the note I know that with the technique she taught me, I will be able to get it soon.
The main thing I was looking for was being able to attain the high G. I feel I am on my way to achieving that goal.
Donna is very upbeat and passionate about music, not to mention very knowledgeable about the saxophone. I felt very comfortable bringing this issue up to her. She is very positive in her comments and makes you feel at ease as you are struggling to get the concept.
If you are looking for a private teacher to take lessons with online, Donna is your person. She is very methodical in her approach and does not waste time in the process.” Roman Chip, Retired Band director
My daughter, Yazmeen loves her lessons.
Donna’s teaching is the perfect mix of technical and tone development, rhythmic practice, melodic exploration, music theory, improvisation, and jazz history.
After only six months of playing the saxophone, Yazmeen knows 15 songs, can transpose them into several keys, transcribes melodies from hearing, is learning to play a Dexter Gordon solo by ear, and has started to improvise over jazz changes.
Thanks to Donna’s insight into all things saxophone, my daughter’s tone is fantastic and getting better every day, and she’s beginning to understand music on that deep level you need to have in order to play jazz.
I love that Donna’s HSP Framework allows Yazmeen to learn music in a way that will benefit her as a future jazz musician.
Yazmeen is now applying all of this knowledge to her note-reading, making the note-reading process much more enjoyable and meaningful.
Two thumbs up from a twelve-year old who is now a saxophone fanatic!
Fred Bautista, Parent
Many adults want to play their favorite songs or pick up an instrument they played in high school and enjoy making music again.
But, as an adult, life sometimes gets in the way.
It's hard to find time to practice, and you don't want to look foolish in front of your private teacher because you made no progress this week or just don't understand what he's talking about.
Having gone through those concerns myself, I totally understand where adults are coming from.
I took many courses on Productivity and researched how to set effective goals to be able to guide students to achieve success.
Having my Social Work Degree helped me to see the root cause of the issues my adult students were facing, so that I was able to really help them make progress at their own pace.
How can my story help you?
I have taught all levels of students for over 30 years, and have judged Solo Festivals and auditions for over 16 years.
Going through my own struggles, researching the psychology of performance and performance anxiety, learning the most effective methods of teaching all the Band instruments, and continually growing and learning new strategies and approaches in teaching has led me to help numerous students and teachers over the years.
And developing my own crazy sense of humor has made lessons fun (and funny) for all ages!
Problem-solving is one of my specialties.
I have helped hundreds of students who had issues with creating melodic solos in many different genres, difficulty reading music, lack of endurance & inefficient embouchure set-ups get past their problems and succeed.
Many students practice without setting clear, achievable goals.
They practice as if they are cramming for a test, which does not work well for learning to play a musical instrument.
Famous musicians did not experience success overnight; they knew where they wanted to perform and worked everyday to get there.
Together, we will set goals and an efficient practice plan to keep you on track to achieving your dream.
I will teach you how to teach yourself to problem-solve your own issues, so that your practices and performances are more enjoyable, and so that you do not have to rely on someone else to fix your problems.
“You have those natural teaching abilities and talent that make your message reach the student in a straightforward manner, easy to understand and put in practice. Frequent use of analogies and everyday life examples help a lot in transmitting your ideas. Really appreciate your help.”Marcelo Soto Quiroga
Do you want results like this?
Take Jake, for example.
All the way back in elementary school, he had the mindset that he wanted to be a great trumpet player.
He soaked up everything he was taught.
I noticed he had special talent, and exposed him to Jazz at an early age – he was hooked!
I taught Jake during free time at school and after-school over the years.
He became so successful that when he was playing a jazz solo at the prestigious USDAN summer camp, all the music educators attending the show swore they were listening to the renowned jazz trumpeter, Tom Harrell.
Jake was equally adept at classical music too, and wound up playing in many ensembles in school, All County, and All-State.
We worked on his audition tune and improvisation and he got accepted into Manhattan School of Music's Pre-College Jazz Program at a young age.
Jake had a vision, listened really well, worked hard and accomplished much success in his school years.
Why Donna Schwartz?
You're probably thinking, “well, I can just go to YouTube and search for videos on how to play Trumpet or Saxophones. That's free, why spend the money…”
Sure you can do that, but do you know what their teaching experience is?
Are you sure that what they are teaching you is right?
Is what they are teaching right for you? (Every one learns differently, especially adults.)
What if you don't understand what they are teaching?
As one of my current adult students said to me recently:
“Videos can't give me the pat on the back I need after I play something. They don't talk to me afterwards and tell me if I did something right or not.”
I have been teaching trumpet and all saxophones for individuals and small groups for over 30 years, both privately and in public and private schools.
Many of my younger students have gone on to excel in their high school performing groups, jazz bands, All County Band and Jazz Band, All State Concert Band and Jazz Band and All-National Concert Band.
My younger students have attended USDAN Summer School for the Arts, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, S.U.N.Y. Schools, and many other fine music schools across the country.
My adult students are performing in community bands, jazz bands, cover bands and on major stages all over the world, from as far away as Bangladesh and Germany to Texas and California.
I have performed in front of audiences of up to 10,000 people in such venues as the House of Blues in Anaheim, Orpheum Theatre (Los Angeles), The City National Grove of Anaheim, Whiskey A Go-Go, The Viper Room, Aquarius Casino in Laughlin, Viva Las Vegas Festival, Lake Havasu Rockabilly Festival, Wolf Den (Mohegan Sun), World Cafe (Philadelphia), Paramount NY, NYCB Theatre, Landmark Theatre, Patchogue Theatre, Riverhead Blues Festival, Dix Hills Performing Arts Center, and many others.
Because I have been performing in public since I was in Junior High School, I know what it takes to put on a good show. My teachers and mentors have given me priceless real world experience that I have passed on to my students.
My trumpet teachers were Joe Foley (Atlantic Brass), Vince Penzarella (NY Philharmonic), Mel Broiles (NY Met Opera), Ed Treutel (NYC Opera), and Laurie Frink (Maria Schneider Big Band and Carmine Caruso Method Expert).
My saxophone teachers were Jeff Lange and Lou Doboe.
I studied Improvisation with Gary Burton and Jimmy Heath.
How about these results?
Donna is a very enthusiastic teacher. Even before she scheduled the 1st lesson, she asked about my background in playing sax and what my goals are (which is sight reading and improvisation). She immediately recommended a couple of books. The next day she came for the 1st lesson, I was prepared and she came prepared. I am self-taught in playing sax. She is my first private tutor. She gave me tips on warming up, improving my tone, pitch exercises and getting the right rhythm on a jazz song. She brought her sax also and played side by side as she tutored me. She gave me homework for my next weeks lesson. She knows exactly what I need. I am so motivated to play more. She even stayed longer than one hour just to make sure I get my questions answered. I'm telling you she's the best. School starts next week, I can't wait to tell my classmates about her. I'll be in 10th grade. You have nothing to lose. In fact, I've already learned more in 1 hour than what I learned in 1 month at school.
Lorenzo B., student at Los Angeles High School for the Performing Arts
Donna gave me my foundation in music and for that I will always be grateful. She worked to improve my tone, technique, and articulation when I first learned to play the alto saxophone at age 10, and went above and beyond in helping me practice outside of class and realize my potential as a musician. I have never had a music teacher as dedicated or as enjoyable to learn from and highly recommend her for private lessons.
“That was epic!” Claimed my 15-year old son after improving and learning a tremendous amount from just one lesson with Donna.
Donna is an extraordinary teacher and a true musical expert.
She zeroes in in her students' needs and approaches lessons with clarity, creativity and humor.
We highly recommend her and are looking forward to more lessons with Donna.
Here's How I Can Help You With Private Music Lessons…
Maybe you just need to practice more efficiently. I can work with you to set achievable goals and plan your practice sessions to get results instead of running around in circles with your practicing and getting nothing accomplished.
If your mind goes blank on stage, or your nerves are preventing you from performing at all, boosting confidence is my specialty. I suffered from really severe performance anxiety to being able to play for thousands of people in main arenas in the NYC and Los Angeles metro areas.
I can help you create more melodic solos that you can be proud of and your audience can relate to. Solos that don't sound like an exercise or endless rambling of 8th notes.
As Jamey Aebersold said, “anyone can improvise”, and that is so true! With just a few pitches, I can get you started improvising, and build your vocabulary and comfort with improvising, whether you are a beginner on your instrument or a seasoned pro that was trained classically.
If you are looking for an objective opinion about your performance, my many years of teaching and judging experience allows me to give you an honest critique with constructive criticism that will not leave you in tears or feeling bad about yourself.
Private Music Lessons Options
Lessons are online, and sessions are 60 minutes each.
We will work on your #1 struggle during each session
You will get actionable tips, a plan, and extensive notes for each session.
Video recordings, with downloadable transcripts that are keyword-searchable are available at an additional charge.
You can choose 1 session, a monthly package of 4 sessions, or even a 2-month package of 8 sessions.
**If you live in the Los Angeles, CA area, and would prefer to have the sessions be in-person, you can come to me for individual sessions for an additional charge. (There are no video recordings for in-person sessions.)
Option 2 – Video Evaluation
Upon approval, send me an un-edited video link of your performance for critique.
Videos should be no longer than 15 minutes, and sent in a format I can open (mp4 is preferable).
You will get a video recording with the strategy for your next best steps. (The recording will be searchable by keyword and you can download the transcript)
You will also get extensive notes, with links to additional resources when needed
Be sure to state that you prefer this option on the application below.
How it Works
⇒ CLICK HERE for the application. Spots are extremely limited at this time, so please fully complete the application as soon as possible to be considered.
What if I just want lessons for 1 month, or even once in a while?
I do offer Private Music Lessons on an as needed basis. We can discuss this after your application is reviewed and accepted.
Be sure to complete the entire application.
Do you want results, or do you just want to try harder and hope for a better performance?
During my own All County auditions for seats, I'll never forget this one kid who played trumpet.
We were sitting in the auditorium waiting with everyone else in the All County Band to audition.
Every minute, without fail, I kept hearing “high C's” being popped out.
I sat there thinking, this kid is trying so hard and is so worried that that note will not come out in the audition. He is just going to keep attempting to play that note all the way up to the time we go into the room.
What I realized at that young age was that “trying so hard” and over-taxing the very small muscles would not lead to success, but would lead to exhaustion and failure.
Playing a musical instrument requires a level of discipline that builds technique over time; cramming practices in before an audition often gives the opposite result of what we want.
So, what happened at that seating audition?
We got into the audition room, and that kid “blew out his lip” (was exhausted) and couldn't play. I got first seat because I strategically warmed up and had prepared the materials well beforehand.
How will lessons with Donna Schwartz bring me the results I want?
My sessions are centered around achieving reasonable goals.
Most students do not have goals in mind when they practice. They cram for a performance like they cram for a test, not realizing that they can do damage to the muscles in their face and bodies during that time (as you saw with that story above).
Helping students build a solid technique, work on really “hearing” the music before it is played, and encouraging rather than discouraging them has changed their performing for the better.
Over the many years I have been teaching privately and in public schools, and also through my own struggles as a beginner trumpet player, I can spot a technical problem much quicker than many other teachers.
Instead of spending months wondering why you are still struggling, I can pinpoint the issue quicker so you can solve the problem and move ahead.
*Please read my Terms and Conditions here.
I want to help as many people as I can to enjoy performing music, reach their performance goals, and get accepted into elite ensembles and dream colleges. I can't do that without you….
With each new student you refer (that signs up and pays for a package), you will get 1 FREE session added onto your package. The more students you refer, the more FREE coaching sessions you get added on!
This is my way of showing how much I appreciate your support.