Piano Lab is owned and operated by Marilyn O’Leary.  Marilyn was a piano performance minor at American University.  Since graduating in 1994 she has worked continuously as a professional musician including 3 years as the pianist for Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra and 15 years as lead singer for Chaise Lounge, a popular DC sextet.  She has over 20 years experience as a piano teacher in both private and group settings.


Marilyn was trained as a solo, classical pianist before entering the world of jazz and swing ensembles.   It is the combination of these experiences that inspired the creation Piano Lab.  Marilyn envisioned a learning environment that would create successful, well-rounded musicians who were not only comfortable at the piano, but had the skills and experience necessary to follow their musical inspiration, wherever it led them.

As a student and as a teacher, Marilyn has observed some common pitfalls to traditional piano instruction.  It became clear to her that without an engaging, multi-dimensional approach…

  • Students can get bored and lose motivation
  • Progress often slows as teachers are forced to work around erratic practice patterns
  • Skills can become unbalanced (a student may play well but not read fluently or read well but have undeveloped ear training)
  • Piano students never develop the special ability to play with groups of musicians

And unfortunately, these common issues can pave the road to the common phrase, “I played a little when I was a kid but…”

Marilyn decided that she did not just want to teach piano, she wanted to cultivate musicianship.  She wanted to give students a broader and deeper understanding and love of music that they can apply wherever they are inspired (songwriting, forming a band, classical competition) while also ensuring a proficiency that they can have with them, always.


And as a parent, Marilyn knows the balance once has to strike to give children enrichment opportunities.  Time and money are finite and it is painful to invest in experiences that either the student doesn’t enjoy or that don’t seem to be building significant skills and abilities.  Group learning makes activities such as dance, martial arts and sports fun, effective and affordable.  Now that option is available for piano instruction as well.

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