A student walks into my studio and my heart fills with anticipation. I can’t help but smile. We get to make music!
If possible, I’d say that feeling is even stronger today than when I first started teaching. It may have been 40+ years but the thrill is still there. I get to play games and music with another developing musician. Here we go on a lively journey as they become free and able to express their artistic nature.
Students arrive at all ages – an energetic four-year-old bouncing on the bench, a school-age soccer player or ballerina, a teen slumping against the doorframe or an adult who has slogged through years of technical exercises. But within a year, each discovered an ease of playing, an expressiveness that flew through their fingers.
I earned my Bachelor of Music Education degree from Drury University in Springfield, MO. I studied the Suzuki Method through the Suzuki Association of the Americas training courses. I’ve attended more workshops and seminars than I can count and I keep attending to add yet more skills to my set.
I’ve taught in both public and parochial schools. I’ve taught band, orchestra, choir and general music. I’ve composed band and orchestral pieces, arranged music for all sizes of ensembles and taught music theory to all ages of students. One of the most interesting teaching experiences was with the Merit Music Program in Chicago where I taught band at Jenner School in Cabrini Green. At that time, Cabrini Green was all high-rise housing projects. It was quite the cross-cultural experience. If you want some compelling stories, just ask me about those seven years.
I began my own musical studies at age five on the accordion. At the time, the Lawrence Welk Show made accordions very popular. I took private lessons and also attended group lessons in a class of 50-100 children. That’s what the height of the Baby Boom was like.
When lessons were no longer affordable for my family, my dad found someone giving away a tall, heavy upright piano. He also found friends who were willing to help move it into our basement. He bought a box full of piano books at the Goodwill store and that became my curriculum for the next five years.
In junior high school, I discovered that students who chose to play one of the large band instruments could have that instrument provided by the school. So I asked about playing bassoon. That definitely qualified as one of the large instruments and the director was ecstatic to have someone volunteer for it. I skipped directly from beginning band one semester to concert band the next. Then I learned tenor saxophone so I could play in the jazz band.
I continued to play in band, orchestra, marching band, jazz band, pit orchestra for musicals, and small ensembles throughout high school and college. My college professor encouraged me to get my orchestrations published and the Drury University Orchestra featured my own arrangement of my bassoon solo during my senior year.
My involvement in the Suzuki Method began when my first son began studies on the cello at age three with the Suzuki Method. At that time, I also heard that the Suzuki Method was now available for the piano. My son continued on cello as I received my training on piano. Then my second son started viola with Suzuki lessons when he was three. My daughter learned Suzuki Piano and later added clarinet so she could play in the school orchestra.
Parents often marvel at the wide array of practice helps I offer during the years their children take lessons here. Games, charts, rewards, point systems, coloring pages and counters. It’s no wonder I have so many, though. I oversaw the daily practice of three very different children, including one with ADHD, for twenty years. A parent needs a LOT of different games to get through that!
I truly enjoy every step of progress a student makes. It is equally delightful to hear a child or a grandmother learn to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with a beautiful tone. For me, it is also equally fulfilling to hear a beautiful Go Tell Aunt Rhody as it is a Moonlight Sonata. In each piece, a unique human spirit has expressed its inner self to the outside world. It’s a gift Andria feels honored to witness.
Oh – and my motto for teaching piano? “We PLAY music; we don’t ‘serious’ it.”