Jason Sagebiel has been studying music for most of his life, but it took a serious injury, suffered during the Iraq War, to learn how to teach it. This week, he brought his innovative music school to Greenpoint, opening Sage Music on Nassau Avenue.
An acclaimed musician, Sagebiel holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in music and is certified by the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). Ten years ago, while serving with the U.S. Marine Corp., as a scout-sniper in Iraq, Sagebiel sustained a brain injury that severely damaged his cognitive abilities as well as his musical ability. When he found Veterans Administration hospital therapy lacking, he became determined to “relearn how to learn,” and turned to the guitar as the tool to get him there.
“Having to relearn as an adult was a struggle,” Sagebiel said. “Trying to do things the way I used to do them was not really effective. I was looking for a better way and encountered all kinds of research into the way the human brain learns and processes information.”
Sagebiel took a holistic approach to his recovery. “Because music is complex, it forced me to use different parts of my brain, which contributed to my overcoming concentration issues,” he explained. “We live in a world of specialization. When it comes to doing music well, that requires concentration, and that means changing other parts of life, for example, sleeping habits. Studying music can change the way people live. To me, that’s magic.”
Two years ago, Sagebiel opened Sage Music in Long Island City, applying the techniques he used in his therapy to teaching music. As an example of his approach, contrary to the familiar joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall (where Sagebiel has actually performed)? Practice, practice, practice,” it is far more effective to practice frequently with a lot of breaks. “When you’re practicing, your brain is processing all this information,” he explained. “When you stop, your brain actually starts to grow and make new neural connections. In other words, frequency is more effective than duration.”
Sage Music’s new Greenpoint school is co-located with PLAY (33 Nassau Avenue), an early-childhood enrichment center and indoor play space. The school offers one-on-one instruction in guitar, piano, cello, violin and voice lessons to students of all ages and skill levels.
33 Nassau Avenue