Walk into Tidewater Community College’s new piano lab during a class session and all you’ll hear is the faint clicking of keys.
“Back in the day, piano classes were very noisy,” says Jeanette Winsor, applied music coordinator and music instructor. “The new technology we use in this lab allows students to practice on their own, while I check in on them.”
In the new piano lab, a sophisticated system of Yamaha keyboards and headphones allows for a variety of teaching arrangements; students can perform together, practice on their own, or play for Prof. Winsor. There’s no noise to disturb neighboring classes, and students get to practice without the fear of making a mistake. “Sometimes, just you and God are listening – and that relaxes students as they learn.”
The $16,000 practice space is essential to the music program’s new Piano Class 1, which teaches new and beginner-level students how to play the piano and read music. Subjects covered in the course include sight reading, rhythm reading, chord progressions, major and minor keys and harmonizing.
Every music major is required to pass a piano proficiency test before graduating. While the college had previously offered private lessons for advanced students, entry-level piano players were tasked with finding their own lessons to gain proficiency.
“When I learned this class was being offered, I knew I was going to take it,” says Daryl Intravatola, a student in TCC’s music program. “I knew I needed to learn how to play the piano, but it was difficult to find the time to take lessons in addition to being a full-time student.”
And you don’t have to be in the music program to play along. Kianna White, a social sciences major, took the class for fun: “I always wanted to learn how to play – I have a piano at home. It’s a stress reliever for me.” Other students, like Isaac Phillips, took piano classes when they were younger, but wanted to sharpen their skills. “You learn music theory, but the hands-on approach makes it way easier. It’s just a beginner course, but it really speeds you up quickly.”
More new equipment for the music program is expected this spring including stand-alone, modular practice rooms, musical instruments and sound equipment for the TCC ensembles. This equipment is being provided through a grant from the Virginia Community College System.
Piano Class 1 will culminate in a recital on Dec. 14. During the final class period, students will go next door and trade in their keyboards for the Steinway.