To Dream a Little Dream

Dana Greene Celebrates 20 Years in the Palisades

By EMILY SAWICKI | Contributing Writer

Dana Greene is a lifelong pianist, singer and performer who grew up in a musical household.

For much of her career, she has channeled her energy and talent into not just using her own voice, but helping others find theirs through To Dream Music Studios.

“I have four brothers and sisters, and we grew up like we were the Partridge family, all of us,” Greene said with a laugh in a recent interview with the Palisadian-Post. “It was a very musical family upbringing. I used to be the musical director, really, for my brothers and sisters … I was using my talents as someone who could play and lead a group and teach everybody their parts and things like that.

“It’s no mistake I’m surrounded by children today … My life’s work [is] just wanting to make people happy and to be confident.”

Francesca Kaufman

Greene is celebrating 20 years teaching vocal lessons—everything from jazz to pop and from blues to musical theater—in her Pacific Palisades studio. Since 2011, Greene has been joined by her husband, Jim Avakian, who teaches piano, guitar, drums and ukulele.

The two offer a wide variety of resources to young performers—the chance to sing and play, record music, perform in a professional setting, and even write their own songs—and Greene said their goal “is to feed a kid what they’re inspired to do,” whether that’s to be a singer or not.

“I think that all of them walk out better because of us—and I say that just from a deep place in my heart, because I love what we do and we want to change lives,” Greene explained.

Like many in the Palisades, Greene said she felt she stumbled on something special when she first came to town to work with Emily Kay Tillman of Fancy Feet Dance Studio.

“I ended up here because I met Emily Kay,” Greene explained when asked why she chose the Palisades to set up shop. “I wouldn’t have come looking for the Palisades—the thing that’s cool about the Palisades is that it’s a small community. They love that they can just come around the corner from their house and come here.

Cole Kaller performs in a Spring Concert.

“That’s part of why we’ve been successful. If we didn’t do great work, we wouldn’t be here, but I think what’s been an asset is we’re local. We’re bringing them top quality vocal education and we’re right here.”

As for what Greene and Avakian offer the Palisades (besides top-tier music education): It’s a little levity.

“We’ve got something else going on—we bring some life to this town!” Greene said.

Audrey Yorn

To Dream offers two performances every year, one in June and the other in January. The June concert, “Unplugged,” is an open chance for students to perform whatever song from whatever genre they like; Greene said pop superstars like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish are recent favorites. But in January, it’s all up to Greene, who selects a theme—last year it was ’70s pop.

The studio has produced standout singers whom, Greene noted, have gone on to pursue music education in college, win Music Center Spotlight Awards and even perform on Broadway in New York. Many of her students, Greene said, remain near and dear to her.

“They’re my kids—so to speak. I love them,” Greene said. “They’re my babies under my wing. I’m nurturing them and helping them to fly, and so is my husband.”

And, Greene said, teaching young people the value of finding their voice has been a labor of love all these years.

“Sometimes, I wonder, because I’m a performer, how did I end up doing this, you know?” Greene reflected when asked about what 20 years at the studio meant to her. “And I feel like I’m supposed to be doing this—it’s a big part of my work in this lifetime, that I give children.

“I let them grow and own a space within them, whether they want to sing or whether they want to be the next president of the United States. I want to grow a child’s voice and I want to give them that power.”