Chopin would be proud

Lydia Short, a senior music and math major from Kalona, Iowa.

Lydia Short, a senior music and math major from Kalona, Iowa.

Summer usually affords students and teachers the opportunity to take a break from one another. But the Goshen College Piano Workshop and Academy – begun in the late 1960s by piano faculty Kathryn Summers Sherer ’54 and John O’Brien – is a unique opportunity for piano teachers and students from across the nation to focus for a “four-day musical extravaganza” to learn new playing and teaching techniques in lectures and master classes, perform recitals and listen to nightly concerts.

In contrast to other available pedagogical workshops, “it is unique in that teachers and students are both involved,” said Professor of Music Matthew Hill, one of the organizers, “and this fosters a week-long event of communal learning and appreciation of the art of piano teaching and performance.”

Like other camps, students and teachers reconnect with friends from past years and make new friends. “By the end of the week a healthy sense of community is fostered among all participants, highlighting everyone’s gratitude for the gift of music,” Hill said.

Lydia Short (below, left), a senior music and math major from Kalona, Iowa, participated in the program several years while she was in high school. She came with her piano teacher Susan See, who recommended it. “You get to hang out with people who have a similar interest,” she said.

The program – which is held every other year – is for 13-18 year olds, and is open to students at varying levels. “Some students attend playing delightful shorter pieces by Burgmuller and Bartók, and others come in playing Chopin tudes and Beethoven Sonatas,” Hill said.

Short appreciated learning new techniques in the daily workshops, attending professional concerts and having other teachers during the week giving her a different perspective on her abilities. The practice has paid off. She now teaches piano through the Community School of the Arts and will perform a piano solo in the college’s Concerto-Aria Concert in February.

Piano teachers also find the week to be invigorating. “We hear repeatedly from the piano teachers in attendance how important they find the opportunity to troubleshoot and share ideas with others in the same profession,” said Associate Professor of Music Beverly Lapp ’91, an organizer for the event. “Over the years that has brought a lot of well-known names in the piano world to our campus and also established a strong association with piano training and Goshen College.”

This summer another group of 45-60 teachers and 20-30 students will be on campus for the 36th workshop. For more information about the 2010 Piano Workshop and Academy, from June 20 to 24, visit

– By Jodi H. Beyeler

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