If you’ve ever found yourself on Pape Ave. in front of Lippert Music Centre, you might not realize this venerable music emporium’s Leaside connection.
Charleen Lippert Beard, daughter of Lippert Music Centre founder Joseph Lippert Jr., and her family have lived on Parkhurst for the past 13 years. But her connections to Leaside go back to when she attended Leaside High School in the 1980s because of its excellent music program. In those days, the #56 bus to take her to school went right past her family’s music store on Pape Avenue and dropped her in front of LHS.
Joseph Lippert Jr. started off as an accordion player and 60 years ago went from playing for weddings and in bands, and teaching in people’s homes, to teaching in a studio on Pape, where he expanded to piano, guitar, banjo, and bass as well.
Musical talent obviously runs in the family. Charleen started piano lessons when she was 5, and got her grade 8 credentials from the Royal Conservatory at 12. While at Leaside High, she accompanied the choir. Later at the University of Toronto, she also took up strings, so now has a raft of qualifications – an ARCT in piano pedagogy, grade 8 cello, grade 9 voice, Bachelor’s degrees in Music and Education and a Master’s degree in Music too. After graduation, she spent 10 years with the Toronto District School Board as an itinerant music teacher specializing in string orchestras. When school boards started to cut music programs, the private business expanded.
There are now seven studios in the original building on Pape, five studios in a neighbouring church, as well as satellites at the Donalda Club and at Metamorphosis at York Mills & Don Mills. There are more than 30 teachers who teach piano, strings, guitar, drums, and even harp to more than 400 students a week! As well, she and others teach in their own homes, or go to pupils’ homes. People sign up for half-hour, weekly lessons from September to June, and some students are now the third generation in their family taking lessons with the Lipperts.
If you’ve ever taken music lessons, you will know that playing in a music recital is part of the experience. Lippert has so many students they need to rent the York Masonic Temple for their 10 recitals. The most “eccentric” one is where the adult students play. Sympathetic guests only are invited, and there is a cash bar.
One of the ways Charleen has built community spirit for music has been through the East York Music Festival, which has just completed its ninth year. They hire an adjudicator, give ribbons to all participants, and medals and prize scholarships to those at the top. And this is a community initiative – open to all, not just Lippert students.
Another top draw is summer music camps, especially one called the School of Hard Rock, which runs four, one-week sessions in July, where participants perform cover songs, record a CD and even perform a live performance. So, not just classical, but rock, jazz – you name it, Charleen can find a teacher for you.
And how did she and her family end up in Leaside? They wanted good neighbourhood schools for their twins, aged 8 at the time, and she obviously knew Leaside from her days at LHS. It was pure good luck that they found the ideal house and neighbourhood right here.
And will her twins continue in the family business? While both play piano and drums, they are currently at university – one studying economics and art history, the other, environmental science and sustainability. A different kind of music?