We’re proud of the lasting impact music has on our students.
Many students and their families come to us wondering if piano instruction is for them. Without question, piano lessons enable our students to find a whole new world of music. Here are the words of some our students’ families and why they love learning with Dee at Creative Harmonies Music Studio.
Mom of Laura, 20
Laura began piano lessons at age 19
Miss Dee is a creative and patient teacher who makes whatever adjustments are necessary to help the student succeed. At first, we were not sure whether playing the piano was a realistic goal for my daughter. But on hearing how she loved music, Dee was willing to try. She adapted and modified her lessons — reproduced the music one line at a time on large cards, shortened her lessons to fit my daughter’s tolerance level, gave physical prompts when necessary to get her hands moving. Fast forward a year, and my non-speaking daughter with visual processing and motor planning issues is reading music and playing songs! It has been an exceedingly satisfying and rewarding experience for all of us.
Crystal for Benny, upon conclusion of lessons at age 18.
Thank you for everything you have done and taught Benny for the past 13 years. He has come such a long way since his first lesson in Kindergarten. Benny has developed into an awesome, mature musician… Piano has been a rock for Benny all of these years and will continue to be. Piano became a way for Benny to express his feelings and communicate to everyone around him. Asher and I always felt deep inside, ever since he was young, that Benny’s love for music is where he would thrive and succeed. We are so happy that Benny found his calling in music and while he will be studying piano as his primary and cello as his secondary instrument, piano will always be his first love and we thank you so much for that.
When people hear Benny play piano at a performance they are so moved at his beautiful playing and how they can feel his love for playing. He receives countless compliments for days after the performances. It melts my heart to hear how happy Benny’s piano playing makes others feel.
After Benny graduated [high school] on Saturday, I asked “Benny how do you feel now?”
His answer: “Accomplished.”
Hearing him say that showed me that he is definitely “ready for his next chapter”, as Benny worded it.
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for all your dedication to helping Benny all these years and for helping him to work towards reaching his goal and to continue his love of music. We truly appreciate you and all you do to help these wonderful students thrive!
*Benny will be taking the next step in his music career by attending college. He intends to pursue his degree in Performing Arts, Music concentration.
Erin for Zachary, 21
Zachary began lessons at 10
Our son started piano with Dee over 10 years ago. Her commitment, dedication and kindness has made not only an impact on Zachary learning to play the piano but has contributed in areas of confidence building and responsibility through her teaching. I’m so grateful we took the leap and started after being referred. Right from the start I was at ease after speaking with Dee. I had a lot of questions and she explained in detail everything pertaining to piano lessons and how each student is taught based on their needs. Dee truly cares about her students and it’s reflected in how she teaches. He has grown into a wonderful piano player and we are looking forward to watching him continue his learning!
Nakia for Kiran, 12
Kiran began lessons at 7
When Kiran (diagnosed Autistic and ADHD) was still a toddler, he showed an affinity for music. Whenever he saw any kind of piano keyboard, he went straight for it and would not be moved. As he got older, he started playing music by ear, but we wanted him to get proper lessons. His music teacher at school recognized his musical tendencies and worked with him as best he could. His music teacher was also a long-time piano teacher and took Kiran on as a student. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t get Kiran to focus and made very limited progress with him. We both realized that Kiran needed a more specialized teacher with more experience teaching neurodiverse kids like him. Kiran started his lesson with Ms. Dee when he was 6 years old and it was like a miracle! It was like she was able to help him organize the mish-mash of talents he had cultivated on his own and help him build his technical skills of reading music, how to hold his hands, etc. He has made so much progress over the years with Ms. Dee and now our daughter, Becca ([who is] neurotypical) is learning and developing her music talents with her as well! We are so grateful for the skill, the time, the love and are that Ms. Dee Puts into teaching, encouraging, and empowering her students to be their best! She is a blessing!
“L”, for Drew, 8
Drew began lessons in 2021
When I was searching for a piano teacher for my son, who was 6 at the time, I had concerns about his ability to learn an instrument in a traditional setting. He has an IEP at school and has difficulty with sitting still, listening, organization, rigidity, staying on task, and social skills. When I found Ms. Dee with her unique combination of being both a Special Ed teacher and piano teacher, I was very interested. In reality, our experience over the past 15 months has far exceeded my expectations. First of all Ms. Dee is really dedicated to her students. She takes a comprehensive overview of each child’s learning style and needs, and uses a growth mindset to help them reach their full potential. She is encouraging and furthermore she strongly encourages parents to contact her between lessons with issues that arise.
From day one she guided my son to learn to practice consistently and independently, working on keeping track of his own materials and assignments, and staying on task. He has made so much progress and has had multiple opportunities already to perform both in person and virtually in recitals. She really focuses on students doing their best and sets up an optimal situation for them to perform, encouraging growth and effort rather than perfection. I’m also learning that recitals are a great opportunity for social development for my son, and to learn to be appropriate and appreciative towards others. We are so appreciative of all the time and dedication that Ms. Dee puts towards her students. My son truly enjoys learning a special talent and growing in his abilities. He loves playing his songs for others and his pride in his ability shines through. Without her I don’t know if this would be possible. Thank you Ms. Dee
Melissa for Eli,12 and Abi, 10
Eli began lessons at 8, Abi at 6
We have two girls both diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADD/ADHD. From the beginning we wrestled with sensory issues, impulsiveness, inattention, anxiety, perspective-taking, recognizing social cues, self-regulation, etc. Music has always been a part of our lives but with the day-to-day struggle, we asked ourselves “who could not only teach, but REACH our children?” Our girls learn differently than other children. they have different challenges and different strengths. When sock seams can spark a full-on meltdown, how in the world can we sign them up for “regular” piano lessons?
Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anyone would be able to “get” my girls as well as I do. I have been their diplomat, their interpreter, their protector, their “fixer” for the big, scary world. How could I expect a music teacher to wrangle my girls in a half-hour and teach them anything? After meeting Ms. Dee, I was cautiously optimistic. I still wasn’t convinced they would be able to learn piano but her experience and credentials were solid. Within a few weeks I realized it was possible. In a few months they were reading and playing music. Within a year, I realized Ms. Dee had not only taught my daughters piano, she had taught me about my daughters. She showed me that they are more resilient than I dared to venture. They are far more capable and talented than I ever imagined. Musically they have flourished. The benefits of lessons with MS. Dee have been far reaching. Playing piano has become therapy itself. When my oldest is irritated by the way her clothes feel, she sits down and plays the piano until she feels regulated. Her confidence has sky rocketed. For my youngest, piano has helped her focus and adapt to the structure of lessons and practicing. She has become far more responsible and self-supporting which has carried over to her school homework.
Ms. Dee was able to reach our girls at a level only a seasoned professional and special needs educator could possibly teach piano. Her genuine care and concern, her passion for music education, and her drive to reach the child and help them realize their personal best is unmatched. She is able to see past the diagnosis and reach the child however they learn. She has taught me more about my own children than I ever imagined another person could. I am so glad I had the courage to try piano and trust Ms. Dee. I signed my girls up to learn piano but we got so much more out of it than we ever could have anticipated. We are so grateful that such an amazing asset is in our own backyard.
*Since posting this testimonial, both girls have performed at two NYSMTA recitals and are members of our volunteer performance group
Nathan and Charity for Matthew, 16
Matthew began lessons at 4.
Our son Matthew was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. At age 4 we noticed that he had a real interest in the piano and music. As we discussed getting him piano lessons, we knew that Matthew needed a teacher who understood his special needs: his difficulty concentrating, his need to gain control in a situation, and the fact that sometimes he just has “bad days”. Ms. Dee was recommended to us through the Autism Society. After speaking with Ms. Dee, we knew we had found a great match.
Ms. Dee has always had high expectations, both musically and behaviorally. She tailors his lessons to his strengths and interests. Matthew is always very eager and excited about his lessons and practices every day. Matthew is not just learning the piano from Ms. Dee – he is learning how to pay attention to a speaker and sit for a 30 minute lesson; he is interacting socially and learning how to express himself. His greatest area of need is interacting with peers, and learning the piano has opened that door. It has given him something to talk about with others. It has taught him a “socially acceptable” skill that he can show off – in church, at school, and even for guests in our living room. He has been starting conversations with family members about his lessons. Matthew’s love of music and talent for the piano has given him a voice, confidence and has even helped him make a connection with us. Nightly practices have been a great time to bring us closer.
Music has become an important part of Matthew’s life, and even a tremendous form of therapy for him as well. None of this would have happened without a piano teacher who understands him, has experience dealing with his needs, and the patience to work with him productively. Thank you so much Ms. Dee!
*Since posting this testimonial Matthew has performed in one NYSMTA recital, performed at the Autism Society Gala and at Proctor’s Theatre and is a member of our volunteer performance group.
Patty for Anna, 19
Anna began lessons at 7
My daughter Anna was born 3 months premature and weighed a mere 1 pound. She has been receiving special services since she was 18 months old…speech, OT, PT and special education. She continues to receive special services.
I was interested in having Anna take piano lessons, however, due to her preterm birth, she has a number of disabilities to overcome. Her fine and gross motor skills are weak, she was delayed in speech, she has a learning disability, she is extremely nearsighted and above all that…….she is extremely stubborn! Which is what helps her in working with her disabilities.
I met Dee Cucinotta at the Kids Expo at the Empire State Plaza in March, 2010. I told Dee about Anna, and she encouraged me to sign Anna up for lessons. I figured I would give it a try.
I am so impressed with Dee’s method of teaching. She asked me for Anna’s IEP, which at first I thought odd. However, she used that to determine how she was going to teach Anna. Dee customizes her method of teaching to each individual student. I saw Anna go from not being able to use her ring and pinky finger to press down on the keys, to playing at a recital in front of an audience and I was very proud of her!! Not only does Dee teach Anna how to play the piano, she also helps Anna’s behavior and self-confidence. I am so happy we found Dee, and I am extremely impressed with the dedication and patience she has with each special needs child. As a parent of a child with special needs, it’s extremely helpful to find someone like Dee who is there to help, not only the child, but the parent! She is a very useful resource and I appreciate the time she takes to help me help Anna……. Thanks Dee!
The Dockins for Nicholas, 12
Nicholas began lessons at 10
Our son expressed interest in trying an instrument: piano. We didn’t know where to begin to find someone with “just the right” approach to teach my special needs son (PDD-NOS) so we put off the search for a while… until we saw Dee and made contact. Dee’s approach is to do a thorough review of your child’s background and learning style, then she works with both child and parent to establish routines and enforcement to help the child get through the initial struggles of learning.
She got us through that rough patch when we almost gave up, and now our son is really enjoying the whole experience of learning piano (including practice!) and developing his talent. He’s just completed his first year and is eager for more… including the recital! Recently, upon encountering a new student of Dee’s in the waiting room, my son exclaimed: “Oh, you’re going to love taking piano lessons here. Miss Dee is a wonderful teacher!”
The Olsens for Katy, 9
Katy began lessons at 6
When I was looking for a piano program for my autistic granddaughter, Katy, I was told by a parent that comes to our 4-H program about a place run by a woman named Dee Cucinotta. This was the beginning of our walk with our beloved “Miss Dee”! Our Katy thrives on structure and kindness…a tough combination to find. Miss Dee is all about that! When we first started our Katy wouldn’t play the piano in front of any on us. She kept this special talent under wraps for about 18 months. It was like opening a beautiful gift to be able to go into her piano lesson and listen to her play her favorite tunes! She has played in several recitals now and it is truly the highlight of her life! She gets into her “piano dress” and gets all serious about the performance. Her teacher at her school even says she plays the piano in her class twice a week during music therapy, and really gets into it!!
To see your loved one that is so disabled in so many ways actually learn notes, and put them into music is awesome! I know the exercise of her brain using the piano is so beneficial to her. Every time she advances socially, I look at my husband and say it’s all of that piano playing that is helping her to succeed!! Without our Miss Dee all this would never have happened.
From the Proud Parents of Abby, 18 & Benny, 16
Abby began lessons at 8; Benny at 6
We have two children, Abby and Benny, who both take piano lessons with Dee. Dee has been wonderful with teaching the kids piano and helping to address behavioral issues. Abby and Benny have come such a long way and continue to impress us with their ability to learn and play the piano. It amazed us to see how quickly they both learned to play and understand the basics of playing the piano. Although there are some struggles along the way, Dee gets us through each one.
Dee has been such a great support for Abby and Benny and for us as parents as well to help us all through the behavioral challenges we have met. Whenever a situation arises, she is there to guide us through with much success. Dee works with each child’s strengths and uses an approach that is unique for each child that she works with. Since we have two children taking piano lessons with Dee, it is amazing to see how well she can work with both of them, each having their own needs and behavioral challenges.
In June 2010, Abby and Benny played in their first piano recital. They both did a fabulous job. This was such a great opportunity for both of them. We were so proud of them for being able to play so well and in front of so many people. Benny tends to be very shy in large groups so this was a great accomplishment for him. As parents with special needs children, this is such a great moment to be proud of. Our hearts literally melted with joy as they both had their own moments in the spotlight where they both shined, thanks to Dee. We are so thankful for Dee and her dedication to help both Abby and Benny to succeed.
*Since posting this testimonial, Abby and Benny have performed in summer camps, at school talent shows, at two NYSMTA recitals, at the Autism Society Gala and at Proctor’s Theatre. Benny has been accepted to the SUNY Schenectady School of Music.
The Sumners for Chris, 27
Chris began piano lessons at age 13
As the father of an autistic son, Chris, I was encouraged when my wife said she had found a piano teacher for challenged and disabled children. My wife wanted to know if we could afford it. I told her we’ll never know unless we give him lessons and find out. We paid for the lessons and believed God would help us find the funds to continue.
Chris started but didn’t like to practice, but his mother kept after him to practice. As time passed he began to improve and catch on to what Ms. Dee was trying to teach him. We then discovered he responded to praise and began to do better and he seemed to like it. We continued to support him for the next three years, giving him praise and encouraging him to practice. Eventually he began to advance.
Ms. Dee was patient and persistent as he increased his piano skills. At times I considered it not the effort, but my wife said let’s keep going he’s doing well. He played at recitals and did very well. At times he would rebel and not practice but Ms. Dee would keep working with him. Apparently, she saw something in him that she could develop. As the months went by he started to play more complex pieces. I can say I at different times would have given up, but she never gave up on Chris. Chris now plays very well. He has mastered all the basics and has advanced to more complex pieces. I now know it was worth every penny plus having the time with Chris. Chris has been taught well by Ms. Dee and thanks to her persistence, our Chris now has a very strong working knowledge and use of music and the piano.
*Since posting this testimonial, Chris has performed at Proctor’s Theatre, The Autism Gala, at Brunswick House and has started performing as a soloist
Paul Sulzmann for Russell, 42
(Russell began piano lessons at age 33)
Dee is the kind of teacher who goes “that extra mile” for her pupils. Her approach encompasses the whole person’s strengths, specific needs and, ultimately, potential when it comes to learning and playing/performing on the piano. There is a genuine, lasting enrichment her approach (through music) provides to the pupil’s life experience in its entirety as well. Russell’s mom is particularly grateful for her sensitive work with Russell over the past three years.
*Since posting this testimonial, Russell has been a member of our adult performance group for three years
The Cerrones for Leah, 17
Leah began piano lessons at age 7
Our daughter, Leah, was born premature at 26 weeks and did not have just one disability against her. She was extremely delayed in speech, fine and gross motor skills. She did not walk until 4 years old and had very little memory retention. We wanted desperately as parents to try and give her every chance we could to someday make her life as easy as possible. We had heard that music and piano may help her with right and left coordination and with delayed processing. It has done all these things.
What we had not expected, but as parents want to cry every time we think about these is that it has built self-esteem. It has given her the piano and it is hers. There were many times that Leah wanted to quit. Dee Cucinotta has been one of the angels given to us to help Leah. You will not find any other teacher that is as committed, talented and as caring as Dee. We are living proof that piano has given Leah her place and direction in life.