A Philadelphian’s Guide to Learning … Anything

A class for every skill

In a Few Months

Play the piano
Chubby Checker, Kevin Eubanks and renowned jazzman Joey DeFrancesco all learned to tickle the ivories at the century-­old Settlement Music School, so you should be able to get beyond “Chopsticks.”
THE TIME: You’ll be plinking something tuneful in a matter of months, and a simple Mozart étude within a year.
THE TAB: Weekly lessons start at $30.50 for a half-hour. Of course, you’ll need a piano…

Sing
It doesn’t matter how much you love belting out Adele while driving down the Schuylkill, or chorus-grouping “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Black Sheep with your friends—you still might sound really bad. But can anyone learn to sing with proper instruction? I’m beginning to believe it’s possible after just four lessons with South Jersey teacher Ken Querns. Read the rest of Janine White’s essay on taking singing lessons (via Skype!) here.

Make things out of wood
Total beginners start with a seven-week session at Philadelphia Furniture Workshop: In the course of learning to make a bookshelf, you’re learning the secrets of the craft from guys like founder Alan Turner, who’s been woodworking for 50 years. (Beyond the intro session, his special skills classes and specialty furniture courses are nothing short of inspirational.)
THE TIME: Seven weeks for the first of three beginner classes.
THE TAB: $550 for the course, including materials.

Golf better
Spring Mill Country Club assistant golf pro Matt Davis wants to get in your head: “A lot of what I’m counseling people on is not getting too frustrated when they hit bad shots. Golf is 75 percent mental.” He’ll retrain your brain so a bad drive doesn’t trigger a second mistake.
THE TIME: Davis will get your ball airborne in an hour; the Zen thing comes after a few months of twice-weekly rounds.
THE TAB: $60 for five one-hour group clinics; $100 an hour for private lessons.

Act
The Walnut Street Theatre School for Adults, swears one Philly Mag editor who moonlights as a thespian, is a no-brainer: “Whether you’re Broadway-bound or just want to audition for your local production of Annie, you’ll get professional, low-key teachers who know how to tease out your flair for drama.” Go for Improv, Musical Theater, Acting for the Camera and more.
THE TIME: Most classes run two hours a week in 10-week sessions.
THE TAB: Courses are generally $250.

Paint for pleasure
Where better to whet your painter’s knife than at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the nation’s first and oldest art school? PAFA offers a palette-ful of continuing-education daytime, weekend and evening courses, from basics to portraiture, still life and Abstract Expressionism.
THE TIME: Most courses are once a week for 14 weeks, but some last seven to 10 weeks.
THE TAB: Regular courses cost $465; seven-to-10-week courses vary. Paints and canvas not included.

Write that novel/screenplay/TV pilot
The best continuing-ed program in the city belongs to the University of the Arts, which always has a spate of classes for hobbyists or pros looking to elevate their writing to the next level. Nobody else in your life will be this indulgent (or constructive) when it comes time to listen to your 11th revise.
THE TIME: A semester runs three months, and classes meet once weekly.
THE TAB: Tuition varies, but starts at $160.

Take a decent picture (as a photographer)
Put that fancy camera you got for Christmas to use at Kensington’s Project Basho, where a professional faculty teaches courses on digital and film techniques. (Look into specialty courses, too: When else will you ever learn vintage daguerreotype processes?) The darkroom is also a membership cooperative for local photogs, so expert advice abounds.
THE TIME: Choose from three-hour tutorials, weekend workshops or 10-week courses.­
THE TAB: From $150 for a tutorial to $625 for a 10-week workshop.

Have more time to spare? See what you can learn to do in a year or so.

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