July 14, 2008

Billerica’s New Home for Talented Musicians

By Jennifer Myers, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jul. 14--BILLERICA -- She found it on craigslist.

The quirky little two-room building with the enormous overhang near the center of town was most recently the home of a locksmith, but had served as a small gas station years before.

It isn't perfect, but it is visible and affordable.

Sueci Carmichael scooped it up for a song -- $600 a month in rent, and hung a shingle: BLT (Billerica Loves Talent) Music School. Three weeks later she was open, with 14 teachers and more than a dozen new students taking trumpet, guitar, piano, flute, clarinet, drum and voice lessons.

She is hoping the month-old school is the humble start of a music empire.

Carmichael, 47, grew up in Billerica and Dracut, playing the clarinet, and later teaching herself how to play the piano, which she now calls "my passion."

She and her husband, Paul, settled in Billerica to start a family. When her kids: Brian, 24, Leanne, 23, and Traci, 22 (the trio for whom the music school is named), were in high school, Carmichael fell into boredom.

She started teaching music lessons in her home seven years ago and earned a masters' degree in music education from UMass Lowell, graduating summa cum laude in 2002.

Carmichael paid her dues, teaching music at South Lawrence East Middle School in Lawrence for three years.

She did her best to instill respect in her students and keep them interested and motivated. She incorporated hip-hop music into her repertoire and added more

hands-on instrument practice alongside the straight book work.

When Carmichael taught a unit on jazz, she bought a pair of drum sticks for each of the students and let them wail away at the drums following the day's history lesson. During the unit on the keyboard, she taught them to play "Where's the Love," by the Black Eyed Peas.

She had 500 students and knew all of their names.

"Getting kids into music at a young age increases their attention span, boosts their confidence and some say it makes them smarter, better all-around students," she said, adding that although she loved the kids in Lawrence, it was time to move on.

"I just couldn't do two careers at once," she said. "I really enjoy teaching privately in a one-on-one situation with students who really want to learn."

Carmichael's dream is at its crescendo, but is far from the finale.

She would like to go back to UMass Lowell to earn a degree in music performance and has ambitious plans for her school.

"I would like to incorporate art and dance, and make it the BLT Fine Arts Academy," she laughs. "And, move into a bigger building."

Carmichael glances next door at the former Whitey's Convenience. The monthly rent on that space is $8,000.

"Not yet, but maybe someday," she smiles.

BLT Music School can be reached at (978) 663-9576.


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