Richard Lissemore, who once studied microbiology, has established
a local music studio where he says people love “the ambiance.”
A neighborhood always seems to find what it needs precisely when it needs it.
When Richard Lissemore climbed over the bushes in 1999 to peek into the window of what was once a doctor’s office on Fort Washington Avenue and found it empty, that random moment of curiosity would soon develop into what would be one of the neighborhood’s most important musical nerve centers.
Just not right away.
Lissemore Music Studios is today a communal space for the musicians of Washington Heights and Inwood.
There, not only can teachers share knowledge with student, but musicians of all levels meet and practice their craft.
But to think, the man who brought the resource to fruition was first well on his way to becoming a doctor when he began his undergraduate studies in microbiology at Rutgers some twenty years earlier.
Halfway through his time at Rutgers, however, Lissemore began to explore his passion for singing. And it became apparent early on that he was made for a different path when something unusual started to happen: the microbiology student was getting leads in the university’s musical and opera productions, and was being chosen over the school’s theater majors.
“It was a very unusual situation, having a different perspective on it. [It is] really unlikely for something like that to happen today,” noted Lissemore.
After changing course academically, he was offered a full scholarship to the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.
Two years later, he went on to the Juilliard Opera Center.
It was during that time he found himself for the first time in Washington Heights cat-sitting for acquaintances for a few months, only a stone’s throw from the site of where his future studio would be a decade later.
Flash forward a few years, and with several high profile performances under his belt as well as a burgeoning teaching career, Lissemore was back in the Heights to stay when he took those fateful steps over the bushes.
He had been looking in Midtown for studio space to use for his students’ vocal training as well as his own personal rehearsal spot, but was having trouble finding something suitable for his needs that offered a long lease.
It never occurred to him that it would be possible to have the perfect spot around the corner from his home.
Nor could he imagine the staple it would become for the community.
Now, Lissemore said, “It’s funny how the awning has become this sort of iconic thing in the neighborhood, and evidently, there’s this mystery [about the space] with people saying, ‘What’s that? What goes on in there?”
For those that know to come right in, there’s no mystery – and Lissemore encourages those less familiar to step right in and pay a visit.
The studio is comprised of two acoustically treated rooms, which makes them “live enough without a lot of reverb, so it’s a great place to teach in,” he said.
It was important for the space to have a boutique feel, to be welcoming and comfortable. “Chamber groups love the big studio because of the ambience, the feel of the room,” he noted. “They can hear each other.”
The big room, known as The Alice Studio, contains a Kawai grand piano and the smaller room, or The James Room, has a Young Chang Platinum upright piano.
Each room also includes other amenities such as CD players, music stands and temperature control.
These days, the spaces are used mainly for piano, voice and guitar instruction.
And besides Lissemore, the teachers at the studio include Laurelyn Watson Chase (Beginner/Intermediate Piano and Voice), Juan Calderon (Guitar Instructor) and Eliran Avni (Intermediate/Advanced and Professional Piano).
Lissemore said he expects to continue to take his teaching career to new heights.
His work encompasses master classes, workshops as well as consulting, and he caters to an international clientele, while many of his students are television and Broadway stars.
And if you’ve ever watched any television, he added, it’s a safe bet you’ve heard his voice in many popular commercials.
Yet even with all his successes, is it the boutique studio that bears his name that is clearly his pride and joy. It is a creative place in the neighborhood he calls home, one he wishes to share with the community while providing the next generation of musicians and singers a nurturing place to learn and grow.
What happens at the studio, Lissemore explained, is simple: “It’s teaching, practice and people making music.”
For more information on the Lissemore Music Studios located at 495 Fort Washington Avenue at 183rd Street, visit www.lissemoremusicstudios.com.