Silver Lake College student Beverly Mark used colored paper to block off part of the piano keyboard so that her 4- and 5-year-old students could concentrate on one octave at a time.
It was a simple experiment designed to help improve her young student’s focus.
Beverly, who is studying for a certification in piano pedagogy, is one of four Silver Lake College students in the Performance and Pedagogy course who are giving group piano lessons to 30 community members. The groups are divided into groups by age, ranging from 4 through adult.
“I have been teaching privately for over 20 years, but I never completed my degree and this will expand my knowledge, help me become a better teacher and give me that professional certification,” Beverly said.
Four-year-old Deidre Schuler of Kiel, one of Beverly’s students, is getting a lot out of the piano lessons as well, said her mother, Theresa Brosnan Schuler.
“We decided to enroll Deidre in piano classes because we, as parents, feel music is a very integral part of her education and she really loves to sing and hear music. Since starting class, her interest has only grown and she really anticipates the class every week,” Theresa said.
“For now it is just the basics, but we have noticed an increase in her desire to listen to all kinds of music and sing along or tap to the beat. It has been a fantastic experience so far and we are looking forward to continuing her (musical) education as well as enrolling our younger daughter when she is old enough,” she said.
Dr. Diana Shapiro, Assistant Professor of Piano, sees the program as a pilot for the Work College model that Silver Lake College will introduce next fall. The college is poised to become Wisconsin’s first institution of higher education to adopt a Work College model, which helps students reduce costs of their educations and gain valuable experience in their chosen fields.
“Teaching the lessons provides a learning opportunity for our college students while providing educational services to the Manitowoc community. Our students get real-life professional experience. It gives students practical experience that they can put on their resume, so when they are in the job market they have proof of experience,” Diana said.
For Emily Cattani, a junior working toward her Bachelor of Arts in music with an emphasis in piano, teaching the group adult piano lessons is helping towards her future goal.
“I plan to be able to one day have my own piano studio so this prepares me for real-life applications,” she said. “Having hands-on experience helps me put into practice what I have learned in lectures from Dr. Shapiro. It has broadened my horizons on how to deal with people and understand how adults learn.”
Even though he’s majoring in vocal performance and pedagogy, senior Kevin Sievert, is getting a lot out of teaching group piano to children, ages 7-9.
“It has put different teaching techniques into context so I am able to approach different students who have various learning styles. Someday, I plan to open a vocal studio in addition to performing,” he said.
“I’ve always been an advocate in continuing education, no matter what our age,” Beverly said. “Every week Diana introduces a new learning concept for us to apply to our lesson plan and try out. That has been very interesting and a real point of growth for me. I’m really grateful to be in this program.”
Silver Lake College’s Bachelor of Music in Performance and Pedagogy is a unique degree at the undergraduate level, Diana said.
“We’re the only college that provides extensive training from early childhood to beginning and intermediate studio pedagogy and covers group instruction. In essence, our students get four practical internships,” she said.
“We’re setting up our graduates to be ahead of the curve in the job market.” Diana said. “We also hope to establish a long-lasting relationship with the community, so we will definitely be offering public piano classes in the future.”