School extols the benefits of music

Svetlana Klempner and Joe Ronn work to fulfill Fortissimo's mandate to empower youths with life skills. (Heather Solomon photo)

It’s well known that listening to music is good for one’s health. Music school director Svetlana Klempner can prove that learning how to play an instrument can also boost self-confidence and give youngsters good lifelong work habits.

The students of Fortissimo Academy of Music & Art have been confirming this since the school’s founding in 2003.

“It’s important for children to be busy. They spend less time on their computers or out on the street,” says Klempner, who knows how to engage youngsters and nurture their love of music at the school that is housed in a strip mall on Westminster Avenue in Côte-St-Luc, Que.

The two floors of the academy are honeycombed with sound-proof practice rooms, where instrumental classes of no more than six children at a time learn piano, violin, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and vocals, as well as other artistic disciplines, such as painting, dance and theatre. One could say that it is Klempner’s dream come true, but she’s not finished realizing its potential: pop-up concerts in care facilities and a summer camp are currently in the making.

She’s also concerned with the potential of all children, no matter their financial means, to access a musical education and she offers full and partially subsidized tuition through corporate and personal sponsorships at her not-for-profit school.

“Svetlana develops the ideas and we try to implement them,” says Joe Ronn, who is active on the school’s board of directors.

Meanwhile, Klempner has gathered top-notch teachers to ensure the future of Fortissimo Academy. She now employs 11 instructors, all of whom are highly educated in their respective specialties.


The school’s founder, like most of her colleagues, has a background in classical music. Her love of music took root when she was a child growing up in Kharkov, Ukraine.

“I visited my friend who had a private lesson on piano and I came home and told my parents I have to learn piano,” she says. “I started teaching my other friends when I was eight years old.”

She parroted each lesson her own teacher gave her and discovered her affinity for imparting musical knowledge.

She studied piano pedagogy and accompaniment at university and used those skills when she taught in Kiryat Shmona, Israel, where she lived for seven and a half years after untenable politics in Ukraine drove her family to emigrate from there.

“Then my husband and I decided to move to a bigger country, so we came to Montreal in 1998. I enrolled at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal), thinking I’d go into music therapy, but my professor, Pierre Jasmin, said, ‘You are a teacher and a performer.’ So I continued my education with him and graduated in 2002,” says Klempner, who went on to turn her private piano studio into Fortissimo Academy.

“We teach every day from 3:30 to 9 at night, except Saturday,” she says. Students as young as pre-K begin with 30-minute classes to match their attention span and then, as they get older, increase to 45- and 60-minute lessons.

“I’ve certainly come to appreciate how many families start with one child in the school and are so impressed, they send their other kids, as well,” says Ronn.

One father who took piano lessons as a child decided to take classes and now plays alongside his young ones at the school’s concerts, which are usually held in one of the performance halls at École de musique Vincent-d’Indy.

“Adults can take the classes here, too, and it’s good for them,” says Klempner. 


Fortissimo Academy’s annual student competition takes place on March 24 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Côte-St-Luc Public Library, with tickets available at the door. For more information, call 514-836-6872, or go to