I came to Lorrie Ruiz when I was seventeen years old, hoping to get onto American Idol, and I had never had a lick of professional vocal training. She shared my enthusiasm for this spontaneous adventure and never showed reluctance or disbelief during the six lessons I gave her to make me a megastar. It didn’t matter that our plans for the show didn’t come to fruition; she made me truly believe that I could do whatever I set my mind, body, and soul on. After being crushed by producers for my first vocal audition ever, I found solace in her words of encouragement and the pride she expressed for my bravery. Within a five-minute phone call, she managed to turn my tears into excitement for musical plans we would carry out upon my return. Lorrie Ruiz has every good quality that you would look for in a teacher or mentor. She has the uncanny ability to instruct beginners and professionals with the same amount of zeal due to her patience and understanding, passion and motivational skills, and uniquely creative approach.

Lorrie has a supreme power to be patient and understanding with her pupils, as I have learned through experience with other music teachers. I have taken drum lessons with three different instructors since I was a little girl. They were all amazing in their own individual respects, but there was a common theme that tied them all together: they made me nervous. If I felt that I had not practiced enough during the week or if I simply couldn’t master the technique they were expecting, I would sit in anguish waiting to see frustration written all across their faces. I have never felt that anxiety with Lorrie. I have learned that looking forward to my relaxing but productive lessons with her has made me more consistent in my outside practice and has improved the results of my labors. If I still cannot hit that high note we’ve been relentlessly working on all month or am having trouble reading a certain piece of music, I never worry that she will be disappointed with my efforts.

I have never met a music teacher as passionate as this woman. Time and money are of no consequence to her. She goes above and beyond for each student, which in turn motivates her students to be the best they can be. I have never had any qualms about meeting deadlines for her because the results always delight me. I have completed, recorded, and released an album of eight originals and two covers all because of Lorrie’s supernatural gift to structure a healthy timeline for successful creation. She was with me each step of the way, from paying royalties and copyrighting to recording in her studio till two in the morning. She treated my project like it was her own musical baby and gave me the push I needed when I had my doubts about its completion. Her enthusiasm for music and belief in my capabilities has changed my involvement in music from a hobby to a lifelong pursuit as a career.

Music theory, with the exception of rhythm, has always been way over my head through all the music lessons and classes I have taken. The extent of my musical reading skills when I started voice lessons was “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and “FACE.” No one could show me the light, so when I started getting into writing my own music, Lorrie had no choice but to find an uniquely creative approach that would work for me. She would spend an entire lesson explaining a chord progression or a mode ten different ways until the light bulb finally turned on. For most, this is an exhausting process, but for Lorrie it is fun. She seems to enjoy the challenge my nonmathematical brain presents for her and is equally excited as I when I finally comprehend the simplest piece of information. She will assign me projects like making a color-coded poster board of a bass and treble clef staff and I am always excited to get working on these tasks as soon as my lesson is over. Bottom line, when Lorrie explains something I have not understood before, I always say, “why didn’t my band teacher just say that in the first place, it’s so simple!”

In just two short years, Lorrie has taught me to vocalize better, perform for an audience, audition with confidence, write original music, put out a record, play piano, apply music theory, and has given me the tools I will need in order to become a professional. Without her as a mentor, I don’t think I would have had the courage to chase my dreams all the way to music school in Los Angeles. This woman has played a phenomenal role in altering the course of my entire life for the better and has given me the strength to fight for a future in music I never would have considered a possibility. And in that respect, she is not just a music instructor; she is beautiful force that changes lives one song at a time.

Colleen Burggraff

Colleen Burggraff