Emily Tessmer is a fairly new transplant to Amador County from the Lake Tahoe area. She moved to Pioneer with her family in September 2020, but she’s already starting to make her mark by preparing to establish a music school in Jackson in September 2021. I talked with Tessmer about her plans to create the Amador School of Music.
She has a wide array of talents, but music is her foundation. “Music was always going on when I was a kid and I was always singing, in productions and plays,” Tessmer said. As an adult, she added, “music has always been my bread and butter. It’s always kept a roof over my head and food on my table.” She plays guitar, piano, and ukulele, and she also teaches voice.
With all her musical talents, it comes as no surprise that Tessmer is also a professional recording artist and has produced several albums that you can find on her website. Her husband, Joaquin Fioresi, is also a musician who plays guitar, sings, and performs at various venues, most recently at Perry Creek Winery in Fair Play this past weekend.
With two performers in the house, Tessmer and Fioresi have a music studio in their home and produce recordings for others. For example, Tessmer said that she’s currently working with two teenage girls to produce recordings for them.
Tessmer recently graduated from Sierra Nevada University, a four-year private university in Incline Village, Nevada, with a degree in journalism. She’s already put her degree to work producing several documentaries, most recently one about the renaming of Squaw Valley. And if that’s not enough, Tessmer and Fioresi have a four-year-old son.
A Calmer Lifestyle
Before Tessmer moved to Amador County, she lived in the town of Tahoma on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, worked as a full-time elementary school music teacher in Truckee, and was a private music teacher in the area for about ten years. “We moved away from Tahoe because it was getting very busy there,” Tessmer explained. “It was a struggle to be a full-time resident there because of the influx of people.”
So, Tessmer and Fioresi turned to Amador County. “Joaquin is familiar with the area, and he has connections here,” she said. “We started house hunting and found a couple of houses in Pioneer we fell in love with, so we decided to give it a try.” They moved to their Pioneer home in September 2020, and despite moving in the pandemic, Tessmer said there was an upside. “We made a pretty decent profit on our house,” she said, “which was a miracle for artists to have a windfall and relocate. We were very grateful for that.”
After Tessmer moved to Pioneer, she soon decided to start planning to open a music school in the county. She found herself coming to Jackson often as many people who live upcountry often do. She fell in love with the city and decided that her new music school, which she titled Amador School of Music, would be in the city.
At the beginning of April, she rented space at 25 Broadway in the Masonic Building at the corner of Broadway and Water Street. The location is on the second floor of the southeastern corner of the building. A stairway on the back of the building leads to two doors, and the first door will be the entrance to the music school. (The second door on the stone façade wall is presumably for the Masonic Hall as their symbol is on the door.)
She plans to open on September 1. “The September start is in alignment with the school year I find is usually what works best,” Tessmer explained. She plans to offer private lessons for her specialties: voice, ukulele, guitar, and piano. Her husband Joaquin may also offer guitar lessons, and she added it will be beneficial for her male students to be taught by a male teacher.
In areas outside of her expertise, she said, “I’m totally open to creating a co-op of sorts, so if there’s another teacher who plays violin in town who wants to teach violin out of the school, that’s great.” Tessmer added that she’s also open to high school students joining her school because, she said, “I think kids teaching kids works really well.”
Amador School of Music will offer private lessons as well as school contracts. With regards to the latter, Tessmer said that she has contacted West Point Elementary School to teach there one day a week. This is part of a bigger plan for the school. “My idea is to create a network including myself and a couple of extra teachers who have students to teach,” she said, “so we can do outreach into schools, offer private lessons, and get music everywhere.”
Tessmer said that one of her core teaching methods is Orff Schulwerk, also called the Orff Approach. As the Wikipedia article describes it, Orff Schulwerk is “a developmental approach used in music education. It combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar to a child’s world of play. It was developed by the German composer Carl Orff and colleague Gunild Keetman during the 1920s.” Some typical Orff Schulwerk teaching instruments are shown above.
This approach, Tessmer explained, “is basically big xylophones and metallophones that you play with big mallets. We’ll have eight to ten of those descending from big to small, and I’ll be going to schools bringing my Orff instruments.”
Students at the Amador School of Music will produce a recital twice a year: once in the spring and once around the holiday season. The first recital will happen sometime late this year. Tessmer also plans to produce an annual musical for elementary school-aged children starting in spring 2022. “I think we’re going to be doing The Little Mermaid Junior,” she said. “I’m not sure where it’s going to be held—it may be held at the amphitheater in Volcano, or it may be held in the Masonic Hall itself.”
A Music Center
Why did Tessmer decide to establish her school in Jackson? “I think Jackson has a lot of potential,” she explained. “It needs some life breathed into it. It’s such a cute downtown—it’s just as cute as Sutter Creek, it’s got cute little shops, and it’s a central location.” The central location was key for her new music school. “People from Sutter Creek can come, people from San Andreas can come, people from upcountry can come,” Tessmer said.
She added that she also wanted to feel part of a downtown vibe. “I really like that, too, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the downtown community.” Tessmer noted that a banner will be hung from the building soon announcing that the Amador School of Music will be there. The school website will be online soon, and you can e-mail Tessmer for more information.
Tessmer is excited about the challenge of creating a new music school in Amador County. “I know there are kids here that need music like everywhere else, and for me to bring that into a community that doesn’t have that felt really good,” she said. “I’m grateful that I have this skill set and there’s a need for it in our community.”
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