About Me


Hi! I’m Alison MacHaffie and ever since I was a young child I have been enchanted with music.

From as early as I can remember, music has moved me in profound ways, and has been my most enduring passion in life. I started a bit later than my classmates – I picked up the flute when I was 13, after hearing someone play it in a music appreciation class. I became mesmerized by the instrument in that moment, and decided that I was going to learn to play it. I was so passionate about playing this instrument, that in a matter of a few short months of independent study, I was ready to join the junior high band – and I moved quickly to first chair. I enjoyed music in many different outlets until I graduated from high school. I was in the choir, swing choir, theater, wind band, and marching band.

This was all without much support from my family. They saw music as something frivolous, and in their view, I should focus my studies on something where I could actually earn a living. I got a part-time job after school to pay for my own private lessons with a flute instructor. I continued to work and save money so I could purchase a brand new semi-professional flute before I began college. I received academic scholarships to begin my college career. I ended up earning my B.A. In Music Education, and then a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology.

My interest in world music began in childhood as well. I was exposed to a lot of music from India, because one of my family members was involved in a Hindu religious sect. I was entranced with the exotic sounds of this music. This carried through my musical career. For my senior recital to receive my B.A., I performed with musicians from India, in their traditional style, on my Western flute! Later, in graduate school, I played in Indian ensembles on sitar and bansuri (traditional Indian flute). I also studied music from the Middle East, Africa, Bali, and Eastern Europe. I studied American traditional folk music and taught a course in American music history in graduate school.

Music has also been a powerful force of personal healing for me. It helped me get through a troubled childhood, and through a major health crisis as an adult. My personal experience and interest in the healing power of music led me to further my musical studies in music therapy. I have been working part time with children and adults with disabilities, including autism, since 2003. I have witnessed first hand how powerful music is to change their lives, by improving their quality of life and their overall health.

Music Qualifications & Achievements:

I’m a qualified music teacher with 20 years experience, including in public school and privately. I offer personalized lessons and instruction to students in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Lessons are offered primarily online, but I am available for in-person instruction as well.

I received my B.A. in Music Education from West Virginia University in 1997, then went on to study for an M.A. in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2001.

I have also studied music therapy and integrate music as therapy into my direct support work with people with disabilities that I’ve been doing since 2003. My teaching style is fun, while also holding my students accountable.

I specialize in woodwind instruments. Western flute is my primary instrument, and I teach beginning to advanced levels. I have also played the nay (Middle Eastern flute), the bansuri (East Indian flute) and various African and South American flutes, and have performed in World Music ensembles. I offer recorder lessons as a great introduction to music for beginners. I also teach beginning to intermediate clarinet and saxophone.

I’ve found that online instruction works well for beginners to intermediate students. Teacher and student can play together remotely, and duets sound amazing! With so many people learning remotely now, lessons online can really help with establishing the basics of instrumental technique from the convenience of home.

For in-person students, I prepare small private performances with my students at the end of each academic semester, for their friends and family members. I love working with students of all ages, abilities and experience levels, but I especially enjoy sharing the love of music with our youth.

Music is part of a well-rounded education and has many benefits. Studies have shown that playing an instrument is neuroprotective, with life-long musicians having enhanced cognitive function. Playing or listening to music also reduces anxiety, as most of us know from personal experience. Students receive a complete music education experience; aural and written theory, history, music therapy, and introduction to elements of world music. You are never too old to learn a new skill. I once taught a 97 year old man to play the flute! I get so much satisfaction from seeing people grow and develop their musical skills, as well as benefit from the therapeutic value of music.


Petaluma, CA 94955, USA



Instrument(s) Taught

Clarinet, Flute, Recorder, Saxophone

Where do lessons take place?

Teacher's Location, Student's House


Clarinet, Flute, Recorder, Saxophone

Lesson Type

In-Person, In-Person

Lesson Prices

60 mins


30 mins


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August 22, 2022

“My children were taking music at school but when it shut down, I decided to hire a music instructor instead. I found Alison because she was referred by a friend and was willing to do remote lessons over video. I am impressed with how much my kids have accomplished under Alison. They have progressed more in 8 months remotely than in two years of in-person instruction at school. We will be continuing lessons for sure.”

Joe C.
August 22, 2022

“Alison is fantastic and great with kids! She has been giving my daughter music lessons for almost two years now and my daughter is learning so much thanks to Alison’s knowledge and patience. When I hear my daughter practicing, I sometimes get amazed by how beautiful it sounds. I find her picking up her instrument in-between practice, just for fun, which tells me that Alison is really helping her cultivate a love of music, and that makes me so happy.”

Lora L.

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