The music duo continue to teach locally thousands of miles away

Phillip Meader Yetter wanted to do everything his older sister did. So when she started taking music lessons, so did he.

His teacher, Dee Sales, remembers his mother saying, “He was bound and determined. If his sister is going to do it, then he is going to do it.

That’s how 18-year-old Meader Yetter from Lynnwood started playing the piano at age 4.

He continues to study in the field of sales, even as he is about to graduate from Lakeside High School in Seattle.

“I’ve had the same music teacher all my life. It doesn’t really happen,” Meader Yetter said. “I feel like it’s a super unique experience.”

Meader Yetter is one of hundreds of students Sales, 69, has taught throughout his career. For the past two decades, she has tutored students in Snohomish County. Now she is teaching virtually.

Dee Sales specializes in piano and classical vocal style. Her husband, Daniel Sales, 63, teaches guitar. The couple have taught in Snohomish County since moving to the area in 2001. In 2005 they co-founded Dee’s Music Room., which associates students with private teachers.

Currently they have around 60 students across all instructors with 35 under Dee Sales alone.

In March 2020, Sellers closed their studio in Woodinville due to COVID. At that time, they had about half a dozen teachers who mainly met the students in person. But the Salés were no strangers to virtual classes.

Their studio uses video chat software called Muzie.Live. It is similar to Zoom but designed for streaming musical performances.

Initially, instructors relied on it when students were sick or the weather was bad. With the pandemic, it has become a necessity.

So when it came time to go digital, sales reps felt prepared.

From left, Daniel and Dee Sales play music with fellow teacher Barbara Spadavecchia before a student recital May 25 at Bothell United Methodist Church. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“We were ready. The students were used to it. So I think that transition has been one of the good things for us,” Dee Sales said. “And we just stay that way.”

The software allowed the Saleses to continue teaching students in Snohomish County after moving to upstate New York last June to live closer to family.

But virtual lessons are not without challenges. Turns out it’s harder to keep young kids engaged online.

“They tend to stare at you and then run and dance around the room,” Dee Sales said.

As for older students, they tend to have busy schedules, balancing school, sports, and other activities. So the option to practice virtually has been a godsend, said Barbara Spadavecchia, one of Dee Sales’ music teachers.

Spadavecchia is the first violinist of the Seattle String Quartet. She lives in Edmonds and has worked with the studio since 2011. She currently teaches around 10 students, most of them referred by Dee Sales.

Spadavecchia lacks studio rehearsal space, where students and instructors could all meet. But throughout the pandemic, the studio has managed to continue hosting recitals for students. Some concerts were broadcast live. Other performances were recorded by students and edited together.

Spadavecchia said the recitals are one of the biggest perks of working with the Saleses. The couple are so passionate about them that they will return from the East Coast just to attend. It’s the kind of production that Spadavecchia would never have the time to coordinate alone.

“Dee is just amazing,” Spadavecchia said. “One way or another, COVID or not COVID, she’s been able to make sure there are those opportunities.”

Recitals are a central feature of Dee’s Music Room. Dee Sales believes that concerts motivate students and give them something to strive for.

“Just taking piano lessons without an event, without a goal, doesn’t have the same effect,” she said. “Students don’t know what they can do until they have a challenge.”

That’s why Dee Sales helps students prepare for the Royal Canadian Conservatory of Music exams.

“There are a lot of teachers who just want it to be fun. And we find that the fun comes from really getting into it and seeing what you want to do,” Dee Sales said.

His student, Meader Yetter, managed to complete all 10 levels of the RCM exams.

“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “And this year I’m playing a whole Beethoven sonata, which is huge for me.”

After graduating, Meader Yetter will enroll at Brown University in Rhode Island. He doesn’t know if he will continue his studies with Dee Sales, but he thinks the lessons he learned from her will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“Dee taught me not only the piano, but also the basics of music theory, skills that have stuck with me for so long that music is part of me,” he said. “She’s been very clear that I can always contact her for help with music or whatever. So I think we’ll hopefully stay in touch for a long time.

Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; [email protected]; Twitter: @EricSchucht.