We’ll be doing occasional highlights of people and practices at School of Musical Traditions. What better way to start the series than to profile someone with whom you’ve all had contact; the school’s director, Amanda Thorstad.

Her road to the school started in 2018, when she quit her D.C. day job and hired on as a fiddle teacher at the original Rockville location.

Amanda saw the need to create order out of the creative chaos that was the first school. As her responsibilities increased, the staff realized she was the person to man the helm.

Fast forward to 2022. When staff got wind that the current building in Takoma Park was going to be available, they were collectively excited. The old lesson rooms in Takoma Park were bursting, and they loved the creative vibe of the city. There were also many families and music lovers close by, with built-in walkability for many of their students. Amanda likes the lobby area and the performance space that allows for classes and workshops. It’s a happy space!

Amanda has no trouble finding teachers-she asserts people want to teach here. The SMT teachers are not required to have a music degree (although plenty of them do). What she really looks for in a teacher is experience, expertise in a genre or instrument, and current professional performance time outside of the school. More important, she looks for the kind of teacher that is not pressure-heavy or demanding of set hours of practice. She fosters the idea that the best learning is self-directed.

Amada sets the tone: “We welcome and believe anyone can learn as time allows”. Students decide what they want to learn and set their goals. All teachers at SMT support this philosophy.

Lately Amanda has been digging into her own family musical heritage, learning the music and styles of Midwest Scandinavian immigrants. Originally a classically trained violinist, when she discovered her great-grandfather was a Norwegian fiddler, she started down her own road of learning and discovery.

Amanda thoroughly believes that music is integral to our collective humanity. She hopes that all students at School of Musical Traditions experience their music as life-giving and well-being enhancing!
Amanda Thorstad