College students learn how to teach piano by giving lessons to area kids

November 22, 2000

College students learn how to teach piano by giving lessons to area kids

By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - "Is everybody excited about playing piano? Let's get excited!" exhorted Angela Weadon, a junior music education major at Shepherd College.


Her class, composed of children and their college-student teachers, jumped up and down. Then they settled - two to a piano - to learn musical concepts and some music.

The college class is Music 321, Piano Pedagogy. Students learn how to teach piano by giving lessons.

The students' students are children from the community. They range in age from 6 to 10 and had no prior piano experience, said Professor R. Scott Beard, coordinator of the keyboard division in Shepherd's music department. The young students auditioned for Beard. He wanted to know if they could identify numbers and letters. "We marched to a beat," said Shane Lansberry, 6, of Shepherdstown.


The students have two lessons a week at the college - a group session in an electronic piano lab and a private lesson on pianos with recording and playback ability. Beard hopes to form a preparatory department in the future. The lessons are free.

Lisa Greenlee said the classes are an excellent opportunity for her 6-year-old daughter, Sarah, to be exposed to piano lessons. It's a good chance to see if she'd like to play without the expense, she added. Sarah is motivated to play. She started lessons for fun. Now she's interested, Lisa Greenlee added.

Sarah, whose student teacher is Amanda Feeser, 21, said she's taking piano lessons, "'Cause I love it."

The student teachers each lead a group class that is videotaped and used as learning tool. Preparation, presentation and rapport with their students is considered. "Young students have lots and lots of energy," Beard said.

In a recent group lesson taught by Weadon, that energy was focused. Weadon taught and reinforced several musical concepts in kid-friendly visual terms. A picture of a half note with a sweet face was "Mommy half note." Her "baby," a dot taped to her right, increased her time value from two to three beats. The kids got it.

Tempo was made real in Weadon's descriptions and pictures, and children's demonstrations. "Mr. and Mrs. Adagio" walk very slowly "to the ball"; "Andante," is a dog who's out for a normal-paced walk. "Ali Allegro" goes really fast.

Weadon introduced the children to a tie, a symbol for tying notes together, by comparing it to a smiley face. She dramatized the concept by tying two of the children together with a piece of string. They lost their balance and tumbled to the floor amid gales of laughter.

The students also learned how to bow. They will need that for their recital, Thursday, Nov. 30, at the college.

"Learning to play piano has brought me happiness" is the message in a card accompanying a gift from Erin Super to her student teacher, Jennifer Jones.

Jones, 20, called her experience with Erin very rewarding. "I think she teaches me as much as I teach her," she said.

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