Ten years ago, Billy Kounoupis interrupted Lori Donovan and Jeff Roberts while they were eating breakfast at his diner along Broad Street in Bethlehem.
"Aren't you that guitar player guy?" Billy, who was looking for a music teacher for his son, asked Jeff. "Do you teach? And, can't you do that here?"
Professional performing musicians, Lori and Jeff, who had been dating for three months at the time, probably couldn't predict that in 10 years they would occupy not only the storefront space next to Billy's Downtown Diner, but have four locations across the Lehigh Valley, employ more than 40 teachers and engage 550 students
The Bethlehem studio was opened as the business's first location in 2004. At the time, the studio was composed of three lessons rooms on the first floor of the building at 6 E Broad Street, next to Billy's Downtown Diner. The studio was expanded in 2008 to include the second floor space above the diner.
And now The Lesson Center (TLC) has announced plans to move to a bigger space being built along Easton Avenue in Bethlehem, scheduled to open in late fall.
TLC's other locations are: 2006 Center St. Northampton; 202 S. Third St., Coopersburg, and 7609 Kuhns Drive, Trexlertown.
Besides a superb faculty at TLC -- they boast such luminaries as June Thomas and John Vadem, among others -- their success is pinned to their philosophy of teaching, which Lori says, should be fun. "We teach students the way they want to learn," she says.
Students still have to go to the proverbial woodshed to get their chops down, but they have lots of help on the way. With children so keyed into digital games and life online, it seems only natural to take that model to practicing.
To that end, Lori and Jeff instituted The Interactive Methods in Music Education (IMME), a cluster of computer programs that are more like games that encourage repetition to succeed.
TLC partners with Piano Marvel, a computer program for practicing piano that rewards success with bronze, silver and gold trophies when the student successfully completes assignments.
Guitar Pro gives instructors access to the music for thousands of popular songs instantly as well as backing tracks, which allows students to hear themselves play along with the other musicians.
Chordbuddy instructs students in the basics of strumming while introducing chords, which can be tricky for beginners.
Some students want to jump right into their dream of being in a band and the center facilitates that as well. Graduates of TLC's "Fest Camp" and "Pitch Perfect Performance" had the opportunity to play at Musikfest for the fifth year in a row this year.
TLC students will perform as part of "Music Of The Who," a benefit for the ArtsQuest Artist Fund, 7 p.m. Sept. 13, Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center, SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem.
TLC vocal students will perform in "The Lehigh Valley Beatles Showcase III," 3 p.m. Oct. 20, Musikfest Cafe.
The Lesson Center provides music lessons in piano, voice, guitar and band and orchestra instruments. Students can take private or group lessons.
Lori says that the move to 1509 Easton Avenue ensures that TLC maintains its Bethlehem focus but will provide new interactive lesson experiences and a recital-performance space on-site and expanded parking. "The future is so inspiring."