Heather Reed parlayed her role leading music at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church into SAPC Studios, the newest music education institution in the Charleston area. | Photo by Keller James Photography

SAPC Studios is the latest player to strike up the band in the local music education market, joining a series of new outlets for artistic expression in the area.

“Music has been a passion of mine my whole life,” said Heather Reed, director of music for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the founder of SAPC Studios. “[At] 4 years old, I started singing and performing, and it’s just been the love of my life ever since. A few years ago, coming out of being a wedding planner, I had what you might call an epiphany.”

That epiphany was to teach music. After pursuing a degree in music education from Charleston Southern University, Reed got the job directing music at St. Andrews but felt she could be doing more. “We’ve been working through the pandemic on, ‘how do we connect with our community? How do we do more than just live within the confines of just the church building? How do we reach beyond that?’”

SAPC Studios was born out of that brainstorm. Launched earlier this year, the school uses a flexible schedule to find the best possible learning time for its students. Teachers work directly with families to find a perfect time for lessons. The focus is on private lessons that cater to the needs of each individual learner, instead of a rigid program.

Beginners start out with a free 30-minute lesson to assess skill levels and learning styles. Students decide the instrument they want to learn on, are cross-checked with teachers and then schedules are designed. Introductory lessons give teacher, parent and child the chance to meet and discuss expectations and requirements.

SAPC’s current students attend at all times of the day during the week, including several homeschooled children. The flexibility of scheduling around the very talented instructors is a big way in which SAPC stands out amongst learning institutions in Charleston. 

SAPC boasts voice teachers, a piano teacher, strings teacher for cello, violin and viola, and a clarinet and saxophone teacher. Reed herself teaches voice and elementary piano. Arshack Sirunyan, an established jazz pianist, is the main piano instructor. Phillip Lipton, clarinet and saxophone teacher, is a member of the North Charleston POPS.  

“All very established, professional musicians with a lot of talent and a lot of passion for teaching,” is how Reed describes the accomplished lineup of instructors she’s gathered. SAPC is also always open to working with new artists who want to impart their skills and expertise on the next generation of musicians.

The group is also working on launching a new theater program in the fall. The musical theater program will focus on group classes and then build towards the production of youth musicals. Reed is working on bringing that program to life as soon as possible.

SAPC plans to hold quarterly group recitals and student showcase concerts that will be open to the public. Individual students will also work toward their own recitals, which will start as early as this fall. Lessons and performances will be held at St. Andrews, with plans to branch out performances to local performing arts spaces.

The main mission of SAPC Studios is outreach to the communities in Charleston. A portion of its proceeds and all of its fundraising efforts go to providing free and discounted music education opportunities to financially disadvantaged children in the Lowcountry.

“We want to build a solid student base for our teachers and for our community,” Reed said of her hopes for the future of the program. “We want to make sure that we’re getting our scholarship students from within our immediate community. The goal would be to be able to reach out to the entire Lowcountry and be able to grow and accept anyone who walks through the door.”

SAPC Studios is throwing an inaugural, free concert event at 5-8 p.m. Sunday. The event will feature local vendors, food trucks and facepainting, and all of SAPC’s teachers will perform. For more information and to register for tickets, visit sapcstudios.com/events.

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