Ciara McAllister - 27 Reviews - Musical Instruments & Teachers - The Haight, San Francisco, CA

Ciara McAllister - 27 Reviews - Musical Instruments & Teachers - The Haight, San Francisco, CA

I found Ciara's school via Yelp and Google (the modern way to find things) and after I checked out her website I emailed her to let her know my situation- a longtime musician (drummer) but frustrated composer for the small screen. I'd never played plano with any sort of training before, and by early 2014 the limitations of my command over that particular instrument were starting to show through. Ciara responded quickly with interest and we set up our first lesson in March. Initially I had to be flexible (which my schedule is) and grab lessons when other students canceled, but once things got going I graduated to my own once-a-week spot.I'm currently in my 10th month of lessons and they are amazing. Ciara is easily the most brilliant music teacher I've ever had. She is adaptive to her students- she prefers to teach them what they'd like to learn, however doesn't shy away from the fundamentals. Yes, there are scales and you need to know them! Our lessons tend to hover between several different sets of exercises, focusing on chords and harmony, music theory, reading and understanding notation, and technique. This is great for me because it keeps me on my toes- even if I'm not feeling one of the exercises, there's so much to learn, and practice time remains challenging and exciting. Each week I feel myself growing as a musician and my musical compositions have already improved tremendously with my new knowledge and skill.Another very important thing to note is that Ciara is a working artist. She's not someone who just knows how to play piano and gives lessons. She's an amazing performer! I've had the pleasure to see her band Hidden in the Sun play live and they are all incredible musicians. Because of this, Ciara is able to not only teach her students how to play, but also mold them into confident performers who have enough courage to play a memorized piece in front of a sizable audience This is exactly what I did this past December, after only nine months of lessons.I hadn't played music in front of an audience in 17 years. I can't express to you how important an experience this was for me, as yet the most important of my adult life. At the end of December 2014 I took the plunge and bought myself a brand new Boston Upright. I continue to practice about an hour a day.I will be taking lessons from Ciara as long as she'll have me. They are the highlight of my week.


An obvious 5 stars! I've been taking piano lessons with Ciara every week for almost a year and a half, and it's been one of the best experiences (and life choices) I've made since moving to San Francisco.I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but quit when I was 11, and Ciara made me feel like I picked up right where I left off, 11 years later. I'm learning music theory, writing songs, learning covers - she designs your lesson plan around your needs and goals, and makes the entire learning process approachable rather than intimidating.Whether you're a singer, songwriter, piano player looking to explore a new genre, or a piano newbie who can't read sheet music (like me)...McAllister Music Studio is the place to go :)


Lizzie is a FANTASTIC voice teacher! I went to the studio today for my first voice lesson, wanting to focus specifically on my harmonizing technique. We listened to a sample song first, then she showed me a framework for creating harmonies, and then we engaged in step by step practice of each part of the song. She quickly picked up on my misunderstandings and corrected them, providing cheerful encouragement along the way. Now I know how to harmonize to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. I will definitely be back. Thank you so much, Lizzie!!


I've been attending Ciara's McAllister Music School for about 6 months now and having a great time. I switched recently from playing classical music taking lessons for the past 17 years with another classical teacher to Ciara to learn to play improvizational jazz. Wow! First of all this stuff is hard! Going from reading music--which I can do fairly well to really learning the chord structures and scales and just being able to look at a chord chart and know how to play it. Totally different skills BUT Ciara makes it all very doable and enjoyable. She takes her time with me and pushes me but not too hard and wants to know what my goals are for the next six months and works at helping me achieve that goal. Ciara has experience in playing and teaching pretty much any type of music--jazz, classical, funk, rock, and voice, whatever. She's pretty much done it all and knows how to teach it. And that goes for the other teachers in her school. I take my 7-year old son to his lesson with Lizzie at the same time that I go to my lesson in the next room and I can hear him playing the whole time. I have to say that this is one of best things about going to Ciara is the experience of being able to share this with my son together! So much fun!So, if you have been thinking about taking up piano or singing, give Ciara a call. You won't be disappointed.

8/1/2014 Updated review

I thought it might be time to do a little 5 year check in! That's right, I've been taking lessons with Ciara for 5 years now and have enjoyed every lesson and over the last year have enjoyed watching her business grow and flourish! She now has multiple piano and voice teachers at the school, all of whom are fabulous people and teachers. In the time I've spent with Ciara, I went from having no idea what a C scale was to writing and recording my own songs! Ciara has been there with me every step of the way and has provided me with just as much emotional support as she has musical support. I've also participated in a couple of her other projects: Join a Band SF and Collab (with the fabulous Heather Pierce, voice teacher extraordinaire!), and I really enjoyed both projects and learned a lot, while having a ton of fun. On the business side of things, I appreciate that Ciara is up front with her policies from the beginning and feel like she has always treated me and from what I hear, other clients, very fairly. We're kind of a family, and Ciara has done a great job of keeping that communal spirit with the annual Master Class and the Recital, where our friends and family and our MMS (McAllister Music Studio) family can enjoy and witness the progress we have made during the year. Lizzie and Carlos are true gems, with voices like angels and the patience of Saints. If you are looking for a fun, supportive environment to learn a new instrument or brush up on your skills, I highly recommend Ciara and all of the teachers at MMS!

5/25/2011 Previous review I found Ciara about a year ago on Craigslist, after I took the plunge and bought an electric piano.… I found Ciara about a year ago on Craigslist, after I took the plunge and bought an electric piano. I have been singing for as long as I can remember and tried to pick up the guitar a few years back, but after many fights between my Martin and I and my increasing frustration with my small hands, I decided it was best for both of us to part ways. The next logical choice to accompany myself was piano, so, onward and upward! Ciara stood out to me against other teachers because of her desire to work with adults (and teenagers), her focus on ear training and songwriting, and her laid back personality. Look, I have a boss and a mommy, so I'm not looking for someone else to be all over me about my "progress." With that said, she'll encourage you to do the "boring" stuff (all the necessary theory and book training) that none of us enjoy, but keeps things fun by working on actual pieces of music that you choose! Like I said, I have always primarily been a singer, so I wasn't looking for a teacher who was going to force me to play Bach and Mozart, as much as I enjoy them. I wanted to learn pop music; the structure, the sound and how to create songs of my very own! The first piece she taught me was Let it Be by the Beatles; I knew we were a match made in heaven. Eight months after I started with Ciara, I had my first recital, where I played and sang a song by Diane Birch. I couldn't believe I was able to progress that far in so little time, and I credit Ciara with helping me stay on track with my practicing, guiding me through the frustrations that come with singing and playing at the same time, and of course, for teaching me the song! I think her biggest strengths are her fun lesson plans and her encouragement to follow your own creative path. Trust me, she's the best guide you'll find to lead you down that path! Read more 12/16/2014 Updated review

I'm updating this review after doing a rhythm workshop with Ciara, Lizzie, and Scott! Wow! The workshop totally brought my playing to a new level. If you are an aspiring singer/songwriter, check out lessons with Ciara, or the many workshops that her studio offers. They are seriously amazing, and so helpful for somebody who is normally just singing and playing by myself. I can't believe I've made so much progress in the past year!!!!

8/6/2014 Previous review I cannot believe how much I have learned during the past 2 years of taking lessons with Ciara. She… I cannot believe how much I have learned during the past 2 years of taking lessons with Ciara. She is simply amazing!!! I know the other teachers here are wonderful as well.My story is pretty typical - I spent years studying classical piano as a child/teenager, and quit during college. I found myself missing music when I graduated, but I did not want to spend my free time playing Bach's inventions! I had always wanted to write music, so I got myself a keyboard and called Ciara after reading good reviews on Yelp.Thank God for Yelp. Ciara has been my musical midwife. She taught me how to use chords, and how to put them together in ways that make sense. After some time playing other people's music, I'm now writing my own music and working on an album. My lessons are one of my favorite parts of the week.If you are interested in playing piano, or writing your own music, Ciara's studio is the place for you!! Read more 2/3/2014

I started taking lessons at MMS with Lizzie, one of the piano teachers, in September 2012. At 26, I'd never played the piano before in my life. So we started at the beginning, with simple stuff like what the white and black keys and how to read sheet music. Eventually I progressed to playing chords, basic music theory, and even being able to figure out some songs on my own, based on the stuff I'd learned from Lizzie. Fast forward 15 months, and this past December I played my first ever piano performance at the MMS annual concert/recital. Lizzie and I worked on my song for a few months, all the way from listening to it on my iPhone, to downloading and dissecting the sheet music, to adding personal touches that made it more "me," or whatever that means. It truly was a highlight of my year and something I'll never forget. In the 15 months I took lessons from Lizzie she was always a lot of fun to be around and very professional. She made learning piano easy enough for a beginner, but also challenging so I had to push myself to play some of the songs. I can't imagine having a better teacher and would highly recommend her (and probably all the teachers at MMS) to anyone I know!


This is a review of children's teacher Lizzie, who is spectacular. My measure of success: Does a 7-yr-old boy look forward to going to piano lessons every week? With patient-and-encouraging Lizzie, the answer for the past year has consistently been "Yes!" Her cheerful energy draws children to her, and she clearly loves helping them discover an early love of music. From a kid's perspective, who has made tremendous progress: "She's funny and inspires little kids to do their best. And guess what, she's even in her own band. They have posters and everything!"


Ciara is awesome. She's got a great sense of what will resonate best with her students whether it comes to practice or theory.I'm pretty hard on myself, and she does a good job of pushing me while keeping things light. She also does a great job of helping to document everything, so you don't feel like you've just forgotten everything you've spent the last hour trying to learn.


Our 7 year old daughter (almost 8) started piano lessons last summer.  She has had an opportunity to work with all three teachers (Lizzie, Debbie and Sierra) although Debbie is her usual teacher.  All the teachers are patient, kind, accommodating and amazing musicians in their own right. Our daughter has come amazingly far in the time she has been with McAllister music; from not being able to play a note, to playing very difficult songs. She loves all the teachers and the weekly lesson and is always excited to go and always in a good mood after.They use excellent instructional materials to supplement the lessons and they are reasonably priced.We are very happy with the progress, lessons and the teachers. The end if year recital is also a wonderful event.I can't say enough good things and  confident all children will do well under their instruction. My youngest daughter can't wait to take lessons herself!


Ciara McAllister is the piano teacher I should have had when I was a kid.  Thankfully, I found her in this lifetime!  I'm a serious singer/songwriter who has lacked confidence in my piano and music theory skills, relying on producers and other musicians for far too long.  Ciara is unlocking knowledge that I didn't realize was in my head and adding to it, the missing pieces in a way that no teacher has ever been able to do before (and I've had more than a handful of instructors).  It's clear from the get-go that this woman is a consummate musician.  She can play anything, read anything, hear anything-- Truly a total pro!She is extremely patient and warm with a great sense of humor and compassion for any person over the age of 18 who is trying to wrestle the "I-didn't-practice-enough when-I-was-ten-and-now-I-regret-it" demon.Lessons are very well organized with just the right amount of information given out in any one sitting.  She takes into account the goals and background of each client she works with and customizes what the focus will be.  For me, I needed chord theory yesterday, so I'm learning scales, inversions, and actually accompanying myself on songs.  It's a goal I've had forever and I honestly cannot believe how quickly Ciara has gotten me to this point (10 sessions)!I am so grateful to study with Ciara and wholeheartedly recommend her to anyone (professional to novice) searching for piano lessons with a teacher who will meet you where you are at and take you to the next level.  Call her now!


Ciara is an amazing teacher and an all around lovely person!  I had always wanted to take piano lessons, and had never done so as a kid.  I finally decided to just buy a piano and get a teacher.  After having had one bad experience with a sub-par teacher, I found Ciara.  And what a difference a teacher makes!  She is very patient and encouraging and makes things very understandable.  She teaches you not only how to read music but to play popular songs by ear as well.   She also makes sure to document everything in your notebook so you can always go back to previous lessons or previous songs you have been working on.  I can't say enough great things about her! She is a great teacher, wonderful person, and amazing musician.


I have been taking piano lessons with Ciara for a year now.  When I started with Ciara, I had no experience playing the piano or any other instrument on my own or with a teacher.  So my review is from the standpoint of a true beginner.  Last weekend I played one of my favorite songs, Jesus, etc. by Wilco, at a gathering with Ciara's other students.  Ciara hosts an annual recital for her students in December.  In the summer she gets the students together (just the students. no other spectators) to play a piece for the group and receive feedback.  This was a great event and served as a great culmination of my first year of playing.  There were pops songs, classical pieces and jazz pieces of varying difficulty.  Some of the more advanced students sang and played.  I received good feedback about my performance.  It feels great to have a song under my belt.  Ciara taught me more than just the chords.  I'm playing bass with the left hand and playing both chords and melody with my right hand.  The song is challenging for me, and I didn't play it flawlessly, but I played very well and feel happy about my progression. Ciara's approach to teaching piano is comprehensive.  Each weekly lesson for me consists of a music theory/technical component (e.g. scales, arpeggios, dexterity exercises), a short song or set of songs from an introductory adult piano book (we've almost made it through the entire book this year), and a larger project which for me has been pop songs.  The larger project is fun because Ciara lets you pick any song you want.  She's a skilled musician so even if she doesn't know your song, she can listen to it and figure out a good arrangement for you to play on the fly.  It's pretty fun watching her do that!  She has a great mental inventory of songs ready too if you prefer for her to pick.Ciara does a great job of explaining the purpose of each exercise and provides a clear picture of how what we're doing now fits into the larger picture of learning to play.  She also is a great coach.  She's able to provide great tips that help me find ways to navigate challenging passages and practice efficiently.Ciara's very pleasant to work with.  She always on time.  This is important to me because I go to lessons during my workday. She hasn't had to move many of my lessons from our regular time, but she always provides plenty of notice when she's had to do that.  She's easy to talk to and creates a very comfortable environment.  She's patient and understands the challenge of getting a enough practice while also working a full-time job.I couldn't be happier with my first year of piano.  I plan to keep playing and improving for many years to come, and I'm very confident that no teacher is better equipped to guide me along the entire journey than Ciara.


I stepped into my first lesson a typical 'guitar player' who couldn't read music, didn't know any of the notes I was ever playing, nor could I communicate anything 'musical' to any other musicians besides playing it (sound familiar?). I was intimidated by musician language and felt totally left out, like music theory was some big secret everyone was in on except me. I came to Ciara for help.Ciaria took a cool, calm attitude towards my whole approach to music, told me not to worry, and then we got started.Six months later, I am writing music using the same chord theory which flabbergasted me for years, freely improvising on the piano, constructing movement-oriented songs with tension and release... I've diversified, big time. And I would not have been able to get here without Ciara.Ciara is knowledgable, fun, affable, and kind. She's flexible and understanding with complicated schedules. She showed me what I asked to see, and also gave me direction for how to practice. I took her seriously, stayed with the material as best I could, and in weeks I was seeing my attempts to play the piano transforming into something that at least resembled music.I also thought she explained things very clearly; concepts I'd tried to learn from guitar tabs and midi scores were so much easier to understand when Ciara explained them, with the piano right in front of us.I've had a few other music teachers, mostly for guitar, and though she has been the most expensive teacher I've had, with her level of expertise, I can understand why ... for all her kindness, she is very serious about teaching music.Highly recommended.


I started going here in February and had a great time with Carlos! Carlos is amazing. Great musician, I totally recommend him for vocal and piano lessons. But I never really got a good vibe from Ciara. I cancelled my lessons with them all together because her policy was hard to follow for someone who has a busy schedule like myself. You had to go through Ciara instead of going through the teacher you were practicing with for scheduling. So if I couldn't make a day or be late to a lesson I would have to email Ciara, someone I barely saw or talked to. Normally, with any other studio I've been to, all of the teachers would handle their own student scheduling and wrote down when a student couldn't come right away instead of blowing it off when a student told them in person and having a student remind them in an email, when there is other things going on in a student's life. Then the student's money is wasted on an unattended lesson. She had me sign a contract earlier on in the lessons, but I never got a copy of it so I forgot the policy she had. She was not lenient at all. I've worked in customer service before and I know how to treat a customer and how to keep one and it's not the way Ciara treated me.


I play guitar in a local rock band ( and the band brought Ciara in to work on vocals.  It's a strange thing to have a voice teacher work with a rock band, I think, but we're all really glad that we did it.  Ciara came in well prepared (she listened to recordings of us beforehand) and not only knew exactly how to address each individual's singing shortcomings, she could also help us blend it all together and had us singing in legit three part harmonies by the end of the first session!  She even helped us rewrite some of our harmonies in order to make them more effective.  it's rare to find a teacher who is so well trained classically but who gets modern music and is able to translate the traditional theory to new contexts.  If you're in a band (or if you're not in a band) and  you want to work on your singing, absolutely give Ciara a call.


I've been lucky enough to perform and work alongside Ciara in music projects, her band workshops, and now as a piano student.  Her talents as a musician and teacher are incredible and have inspired me on my own journey as a musician and teacher.  In her band workshops she is a natural leader, and meets any issue with patience and decisive action, maintaining enthusiasm and a fun environment while always keeping the band on course to being at it's best.  The results are in the final performances which always rock and end in smiles all around.   Her talents are just as apparent when working with her in piano lessons.  In this environment she manages to constantly listen, create awareness of where I'm at, and completely fine tune my playing in a way that has improved my abilities faster than I would have expected.  My first experiences with piano lessons as a kid were a drag.  Had they been in an environment like Ciara's, I would have likely stuck with it.  Ciara makes it fun, keeps it laid back, and gets results.


Ciara is simply amazing!  I'm one of those people who loved and studied classical piano when I was younger but somehow let my passion slip away as I put my energies into school, career and family.  Over the years I made several attempts to bring piano back into my life and then one day I went on Yelp and found Ciara!.  It was an instant connection. I have only been studying with her for about 7 months but I can honestly say it has been a iife changing experience.  Ciara is an incredibly gifted teacher and accomplished pianist who has a deep knowledge of music from classical to jazz and blues.  What a talent and inspiration!  When I first began I was a bit intimidated because I didn't have a clear idea of how to get started  or what my goals were. I knew I had some talent but I had forgotten so much.  My sight reading was always a challenge in the past and I relied heavily on my ear.  Well after one lesson, I was hooked.  Ciara totally got where I was at and was able to help me form goals for myself and work on my self confidence.  (That is still a work in progress.)  She is extremely organized, patient, supportive and has a great sense of humor.   It has been a real joy to work with Ciara and rediscover myself.  She wants nothing more than the best for all of her students.  And that was apparent last month during one of her annual student recitals.   Every student shined and it was a personal triumph for each of us who worked so hard.   Ciara couldn't have been prouder.I never would have imagined six months ago that I would be performing on a  Steinway Grand Piano infront of an audience full of supportive friends and family.I knew from day one Ciara was a very gifted and serious teacher.  And now I have discovered, even at my age, I am once again a serious piano student loving every minute of it.Whether you are someone like me who used to play piano or someone who always wanted to learn to play,  you owe it to yourself.  It's never too late.  Give Ciara a call.


Ciara is a great teacher who's equally capable of teaching you by the book if your interest is in classical music, sight reading, etc. and teaching you to to get a feel for hearing key signatures and chords and, eventually, playing by ear, if your interest tends more toward popular music, improv-y stuff, etc. I found her on Craigslist and will be moving to NYC in a couple weeks, and I'm very sad to lose her! But the good news for you is that she probably has a weekly lesson opening up very soon. :)


I met Ciara about four years ago through a mutual bandmate and quickly discovered her immense talent as a musician and teacher. Over the past few years we've performed in a few different projects together and I can attest, outside of being an awesome piano player, she's a super cool individual. Being a bass player and teacher myself, I've had the privilege of being part of her workshops. Each time, I watch as she enlightens her students with valuable music knowledge and reinforces it with genuine encouragement and enthusiasm. Working with Ciara is always a wonderful experience and her teaching method is something that I hope to, one day, follow suit. I highly recommend Ciara as a music teacher and encourage you to be part of her awesome program. You won't be disappointed.

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