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The melodic notes of a keyboard are heard throughout the orange and turquoise halls of The Real School of Music in Andover, as voice instructor Stephanie Morey and her student warm up. They run through a series of vocal exercises, then move on to a song: pop hit “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. Morey suggests small adjustments and her student tries again, inching ever closer to nailing the tricky chorus.

“I love this place because it’s upbeat, everybody’s friendly, and they let the students decide what they want to study,” says Morey with palpable enthusiasm. “They don’t just put everyone in one little corner and say, ‘You have to learn this kind of music.’”

Founded in 2008, The Real School of Music has always followed the basic philosophy outlined by Morey: Students learn better when you let them play what they like. Add ample opportunities to perform, and you have the formula for creating enthusiastic and accomplished young musicians, says Sheela Marston, the school’s director of business development, as well as a guitar student.

For its first six years, the school operated exclusively out of a space on Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington. In April, it expanded, adding a second location just outside Andover center and merging with North Andover’s Bradford School of Music.

At the heart of the school are its private lessons and its ensemble program. Voice lessons are the most popular, says Marston, followed by guitar, piano and keyboard, and drums. But while those pop and rock music staples lead the pack, the school also offers lessons on everything from clarinet to violin. Banjo has been surging in popularity lately, likely because Taylor Swift has been known to play one, speculates April Holland, the school’s director of buzz.

The instructors, many of whom attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, offer a range of expertise. Morey has a background in musical theatre; other voice instructors have experience with rock or country music. There’s an instructor who teaches jazz bass and another who recently offered a session on playing rock music with string instruments. Guest instructors are also regularly invited to the school. Jeff Coffin, the saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, taught a clinic this past summer.

The school’s approach is so encouraging that children want to work on their music. Suzanne Carlson of Reading finds she doesn’t have to nag her daughters to practice. “They seem to be drawn to their instruments,” says Carlson while waiting for her older daughter to finish a guitar lesson.

Also central to the school’s mission is the ensemble program, in which students—both kids enrolled at the school and others taking lessons elsewhere— are placed in performance groups based on their skill level and preferred musical style. The ensembles jam together, write songs, and ultimately perform on the school’s main stage. “You don’t learn to play an instrument by playing [alone] in your basement,” notes Marston. “Music is a social activity.” She views the ensemble program as the school’s “crown jewel.”

The Real School’s summer program, dubbed Real Jams Academy, concentrates its approach into one intensive week of music. Students from ages 10 to 18 take lessons, form bands, write songs, and record a music video. They even choose their own band names; past groups have included Super Honey Badgers, The Fedorables, and The Apocalyptic Pelican. At the end of the week, they perform their work.

Off-site performance opportunities abound as well. The school has showcased student work at Johnny D’s in Somerville and has recently added the Hard Rock Cafe and Acton Jazz Cafe as performance locations. Student groups play at local fairs, road races, and community events, too. “They’re not old enough to perform at many of the places you see live music,” notes Holland. “They need a scene of their own.”

Sometimes performance groups from both the school year and summer programs stay together after the session is over. One band, the 100 Decibelz, regularly plays local venues and a Real School voice student recently sang the national anthem at Fenway Park.

The new space in Andover was designed to support the school’s philosophy. Thirteen individual lesson rooms and four larger group practice spaces, one with an integrated recording studio, offer ample room for students to learn and play. Walls are painted bright colors and comfortable chairs are scattered throughout the space for parents or for students whiling away some time between lessons and ensemble practice. Free WiFi access allows parents to multitask while they wait. “It was very intentionally designed to feel comfortable and inviting and full of energy,” says Marston.

Back in Morey’s sunny yellow lesson room, her student is getting deeper and deeper into her song, belting out the lyrics, “I want to see you be brave,” with growing confidence.