Teresa Cappello’s connection to Settlement goes back a long way. The 2016-17 season marks 40 years on the faculty here, and she’s a Settlement alumna as well, taking piano lessons with Irene Beck at the Germantown Branch starting at age 15.
She was an enthusiastic student at the time, but she knows that not every student approaches their weekly lessons with similar excitement. “I’ve become known as a teacher that takes on challenging students,” she says. “I look at every student holistically. I see what their parents want them to be and what they want to be themselves.”
That openness took her in a very different direction roughly 20 years into her tenure, when she took part in a program with MossRehab where she taught and performed for rehabilitation patients. “I saw there was a need. They had the possibility to make music in their lives, and I knew that I could help.”
That experience, along with teaching in a Montessori school, spurred Cappello to pursue training in music therapy. She received a Master’s degree in Music Therapy from Drexel University in 2000 and worked as a therapist with the Kardon Insitute, the precursor to Settlement’s Kardon Center for Arts Therapy, while still teaching piano at Settlement.
“I worked with students with autism and other developmental disorders,” she recalls, “and I served as accompanist for the Kardon Chorale,” an amateur choral group comprising both Kardon Institute clients and their families.
With experience in both traditional music instruction and in therapeutic museum, Cappello says she doesn’t aim, as a teacher, to discover “the next Van Cliburn or Gary Graffman.”
“Let’s see where music can touch them and change them, and let’s see where there’s potential that’s hidden.” She adds, “each individual is teaching you—about you and your teaching methods. I don’t say ‘this is the way I teach, and that’s it.’ I’m more open.”
Ultimately, Cappello’s devotion leads her students and families to feel the same way about Settlement she does, even if they haven’t been connected to the school for as long. “To me, it’s a second home,” she says. “It’s a comfortable, supportive environment.”