On June 8th, the Lagond Music School in Elmsford held a fundraiser at the Irvington Music Hall, featuring Tom O’Brien and his Voodoo Love Band. “This was Tom’s baby in Irvington, and we’re thrilled that he did this for us,” said Charlie Lagond, professional musician and founder of the school six years ago.
Sitting on the board at Lagond himself and a successful architect, Mr. O’Brien shared the stage with students from the school before the pros gave way completely to the future prodigies. “The kids took over and shared with the audience their love of music,” said Mr. Lagond.
his type of event coincides with what Mr. Lagond had in mind when he started the school. 25 years a musician with Motown roots that includes work with The Temptations, The Jackson Five and The Spinners, Mr. Lagond found music instruction seemed too structured by academia.
From that premise came the origins of his non-profit music school. “What makes The Lagond School different is we provide a vehicle where students can bring music education where it fundamentally belongs – to an audience.
But simply transcribing verse, scale and chord to an audience isn’t exactly what it means to speak the universal language of music. “It’s really to communicate your passion for music,” he said, and in that the Lagond School deviates from the recital orientated offerings that most programs put on.
For the students, acceptance into Lagond begins with an audition. Being able to hit a note or swing an “ax” with aptitude is good, but Mr. Lagond looks and listens for something more important. “The main quality that we look for in a student is passion so when we started the school we didn’t just look for prodigies. We sought kids who were looking for an identity through music,” he said.
So far, he said, some of the transformations among his students has been amazing, but Mr. Lagond does not prepare students with the type of on the job training accountants get or musicians of another era. “Years ago a performer would just get up and crash and burn on the music stand,” he said.
“We’re pretty rigorous,” he said, but learning still is a gradual process that starts with their own interests and grows with exposure to all forms of contemporary music. Learning also springs from a premise that is born out of each student’s making.
Even though children learn at different speeds and eventually cover the same material, he said, “They don’t come here to fulfill our program, they come here to develop their own creative vision.”
So once they’ve progressed from private lessons to workshop settings and then onto performance bands, onstage means accompaniment with seasoned professionals. “In a live performance, it’s not a controlled environment,” he said, so having someone on hand with the experience to address a malfunctioning amp or a broken drum petal helps contain the jitters to the normal fears a novice can handle.
In the end, he partly measures the school’s success by all the students who’ve made it into major conservatories such as Eastman, McGill University in Montreal and the Manhattan School of Music, but it also means a lot to him when students credit the Lagond experience with entry into top schools in fields other than music. “So, it’s music but it’s also about acquiring life skills,” he concluded.
Rich Monetti interview of Charlie Lagond