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Senior center offers piano lessons

August 11, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- At age 86, it's finally Anna Jean Smith's turn to tickle the ivories.

When her three children were young, Smith made sure they learned to play the piano, but she never seemed to have the time to learn herself.

When she heard about group piano lessons being offered at the Washington County Senior Center, Smith didn't waste any time in signing up.

"I love music, all kinds. That's one reason I'm doing this," said Smith, who tries to practice 30 minutes a day on her piano at home.

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She is one of three women taking the six-week class taught by Anne Maysak. Maysak, who moved to Hagerstown two years ago, said she taught adult education piano classes for about 20 years in Montgomery County, Md.

"The whole idea behind it is just to have fun," Maysak said.

She said she thinks the group approach is ideal for seniors because it not only offers social interaction, but creates some positive peer pressure, which makes students want to go home and practice.

Maysak is pleased to have three students and hopes more will sign up for the next session in September. She said groups of up to eight students work well and with more students, she can offer different levels of instruction.

"With more, they can listen and learn from the others," said Maysak, who said the lessons are for students of all levels, from beginners to more advanced.

The session costs $30 and the piano instruction book costs $15.

Eve McGrory, 71, and Betty Jacobs, 74, took lessons as children. One of the highlights for Jacobs was being able to play "Happy Birthday" on the piano for her son, of Frederick, Md., as he listened over the phone recently.

"He loved it," Jacobs said.

Maysak's students take turns playing on the one piano in the Girls Inc. classroom where the lessons are taught. Each student has a plastic keyboard on which to finger along as the others play. Maysak's wish list includes a piano for every student someday.

At the fifth hour-long lesson of six, the students were reviewing songs they practiced that week, like "Love Somebody" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." Maysak reminded them of terminology they have already learned -- intervals, harmonic, triads and time signatures.

At the first lesson, Maysak passed out a copy of an article titled "The Ultimate Anti-aging Hobby," which highlights how longtime musicians, especially pianists, have longer life spans and that students of any age can learn to play the piano.

"It's a wonderful brain exercise," McGrory said.

She added that the movement of playing piano also is good for her arthritic fingers.

In addition to piano, McGrory plays clarinet in the New Horizons band. She took up the clarinet in retirement and also plays percussion instruments.

Jacobs had given her piano away, but bought a keyboard to practice on at home, one that fits comfortably in her downsized living space.

"I'm really pleased the program is offered. Without a doubt, I will do this in the fall," Jacobs said.

For more information about the piano lessons, call Kathy Fisher at the Washington County Senior Center at 301-671-2368.

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