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Rockin’ Mozart Academy expands music education throughout west side

Michael Tortorich
A student practices drums at Rockin' Mozart Music School.

So you want to be a rock and roll star?

As the classic song by The Byrds goes, take some time and learn how to play. 

No matter age or skill level, the fundamentals of music can be learned at Rockin’ Mozart Academy, which has established locations in Plaquemine and Port Allen, and a new school in Donaldsonville.

The academy is owned and operated by Dr. Michael Berthelot, who holds a masters and Ph.D in music composition from LSU. He also completed the alternative teacher education program at Southeastern Louisiana University, and holds a Level 3 teaching certificate. 

He established his first music education academy in 2005, which was formerly known as Westside Music Academy in Brusly.

Berthelot, a native of Brusly, has served as music director at MSA West in Plaquemine, where he was the 2018-2019 middle school teacher of the year.

The three academies have 21 total employees, including well-educated, experienced, and passionate music instructors.

His wife and co-owner, Dorela Hyka-Berthelot, graduated from the Academy of Arts in her native country, Albania, and received a masters from LSU. She has performed as a cellist around the world, including with the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans and the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

The Berthelots’ children, Dea and Dorian, are budding musicians who play two instruments each.

As Dorela Berthelot pointed out, research shows exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the development of young children in the areas of language and reading skills.

The Donaldsonville location opened March 1, just before the coronavirus pandemic. Even though they had to close for in-person instruction, the school maintained its 13 families, Dr. Berthelot said.

“They couldn’t wait to be in the studio,” Dorela Berthelot said.

The instructors and students made the most of remote learning, even holding a recital via Facebook Live. Through the phases of reopening, students have been returning.

“Most are coming back. We built relationships with them, and word got out through them that we cared about our students,” Dr. Berthelot said.

The third location of Rockin’ Mozart Music School opened in Donaldsonville this year.

Students have advanced to a level where they form bands and play live events. One band in Plaquemine started at ages 7 and 8. Now sophomores and juniors, they go out and play gigs as a rock band.

The students are allowed time to jam classic rock songs, but they also make sure to focus on reading music and studying theory.

Instructors Allison Alexander and Tyler Barbier began studying music with Dr. Berthelot at a young age. Alexander now teaches in Plaquemine, while Barbier teaches in both Plaquemine and Donaldsonville.

Mark Dupont of Plaquemine started out in music at an early age, eventually performing by age 12. A graduate of St. John High School, he has volunteered for more than a decade leading the school's drum corps.

Dr. Berthelot described all of the instructors as caring and patient musicians who have a love for sharing their knowledge with others.

“We’ve always had a solid staff. Everybody cared about music education,” he said.

Dr. Berthelot’s vision for the academy evolved from humble beginnings when the First United Methodist Church in Plaquemine opened its doors to the program. As the locations in Plaquemine and Port Allen have become more established over the years, a need for music education was discovered in the Donaldsonville area.

Dr. Berthelot said Lee Melancon, who is the City of Donaldsonville’s director of community and economic development, showed him around the area and assisted with getting the newest location open.

He said it takes time to develop relationships with families. A quality music education experience serves as the best way to get the word out, he added.

“Dr. B is a very talented and hardworking person. He’s been an educator for a long time now. He has so many creative ways. It’s rare to find,” Dorela Berthelot said.

Current packages include once a week lessons for an hour, and cost $100.

“Students can study anything they’re interested in. They get great lessons with incredible people,” he said.

As Dorela Berthelot explained, music can be a luxury. Ultimately, their plan has been to offer opportunities to young students through affordable packages.

In the long term, the goal is to franchise academies to new locations. 

“I want the fourth location to be turnkey,” he said.

Just as in music, complicated ideas can be turned into simplicity. The current academies have been building systems for quality. That includes all aspects of the business, whether it be the accounting side or the instructors.

“When you make it simple, you figure it out,” he said. “For those who don’t normally have opportunities, we change the students and the adults’ lives. That’s the motivation right there.” 

The current locations are: 1034 Court St., Port Allen; 23645 Church St., Plaquemine; and 3406 Hwy. 1 South, Donaldsonville.  

For more information, call the academy at (225) 955-1320 or email rockinmozartacademy@gmail.com. The school’s website is www.rockinmozartacademy.com.