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
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 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.