Sarah Olim is SMC Community Ed’s piano instructor par excellence. She teaches One-on-One Piano throughout the year, to all kinds of students – all ages (from 5 years old and up) and all levels, from beginner to advanced.

Piano teacher Sarah Olim.

She teaches the students what they want to learn, whether it is pop, classical, jazz or other styles.

Olim has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Piano Pedagogy and has done graduate coursework in music at California State University, Los Angeles.

She has taught piano and music all over the Los Angeles area, including Music Fundamentals for Adults (with an emphasis on the skill of reading and understanding musical notation) at SMC Community Ed from 1984 to 1986, 1991 to 1999, and 2006 to 2015. Her One-on-One classes – which are held at the beautiful SMC Performing Arts Center/Madison campus in central Santa Monica – have been offered for about two years.

Among the other places she has taught are University of Judaism, Los Angeles Pierce College and Pasadena City College.

What do you like about teaching piano?

I enjoy showing children and adults how to play the piano and for those who have some experience, other ways of reading and interpreting the music.  I’ve had many adults tell me they like having the skills to play as it calms them down at the end of the day. Teaching also involves sharing ideas, so I sometimes pick up ideas from the student and even songs from the children.

Piano teacher Sarah Olim.


It’s also nice when I have a student return after a long while. I had one lady who just recently signed up for the private lessons. Turned out she had had a group class with me in the past and at that time had asked me to play for her 50th Birthday party. That was 25 years ago! So, it took 25 years, but she came back.

What kinds of music do you like? Who are your favorite composers?

I like most styles of music including classical, jazz and classic rock. Favorite composers would be Debussy and Ravel along with Beethoven and Chopin.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A day where all students are prepared by having practiced whatever they are working on so that we can move on to new material with new skills.

What is one of the best compliments you ever received?

I’ve received applause at the end of adult group classes many times. I’ve also had parents come up and tell me how much their child enjoyed their class with me.

What activities do you like to do outside of music and piano?

I do a lot of volunteering for various organizations including ushering at The Broad Stage (SMC Performing Arts Center) and other theatre venues. I also help the Los Angeles Ballet with the boutique at their performances.

What was the last picture you took with your phone?

I videotaped a student playing so that he could hear his performance. I then used it for another student who was learning the same composition to get a comparison between the way she played the piece vs. what she heard the other student do.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Moved to Los Angeles.

Sarah Olim will teach several One-on-One Piano classes in the Winter Session.

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