At the Music Teachers National Association conference held this March in Chicago, Chi Nguyen accepted the Recreational Music Making Teaching Fellowship award given by the National Piano Foundation.
The James Madison University alumna was presented two digital pianos, given to candidates who demonstrate a passion and aptitude for recreational music teaching and who are starting, or expanding, their careers as independent piano teachers.
Nguyen will use those pianos, as well as two additional pianos purchased by Eastern Mennonite University, to teach group piano lessons for adults this fall as part of the EMU Preparatory Music Program.
“The idea behind the program is that music is for everybody,” says Nguyen. “We’re hoping to get adults who have taken a lesson in the past and quit, or those who have always wanted to take a lesson but haven’t. The focus is on having an enjoyable experience. There’s no pressure to play solo in front of others.”
Students will practice on digital pianos, learning by ear in the beginning and gradually reading music. Nguyen says improvisation will be encouraged on the pianos, which come equipped with functions that transform the sound into a range of tones, from organ to choir.
Nguyen has been teaching the instrument since she enrolled as a piano performance major at JMU and taught group lessons while pursuing her master’s degree at Florida State University.
“It was there I grew to love teaching group piano,” she says. “With group lessons, we can play ensemble pieces, where one person plays a melody and another bass. It creates a very full sound that’s completely different from you by yourself at the piano.”
Nguyen says she prefers teaching non-music majors, who take the class voluntarily and are excited to practice and learn. Nguyen will be using a book, but says she will also use supplementary materials and ask for song requests.
Sharon Delawder of Harrisonburg says she signed up for the classes to challenge herself and keep busy.
“I retired earlier in the year and was looking for something to stay active,” Delawder says. “I’ve always wanted to learn an instrument, and when my daughter was taking lessons, I tried to follow along, but didn’t have time to keep up.”
Nguyen says research has shown that music can help reduce stress by reversing the body’s response, significantly lowering heart rates and regulating blood pressure.
Contact the EMU preparatory music program at 540-432-4220 for more information or to register.
Courtesy of the Daily News Record, Aug. 21, 2014