Student panel: Piano isn’t just for college music majors

Bookmark and Share

May 26, 2020

The customary practice when writing about college students is to identify them by major or class year.

But in this particular case, let’s just call them pianists.

Four pianists representing a cross-section of keyboard students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University will present  “Playing Piano in College: Not Just For Piano Majors” at the 121st annual Minnesota Music Teachers’ Association’s virtual convention.

logo for MMTA

Their presentation, at 3 p.m. Monday, June 8, will be moderated by Amy Grinsteiner, associate professor of music (piano) at CSB and SJU. The group – which will be introduced by Ed Turley, professor of music (piano) at CSB and SJU – hail from a variety of high school and college playing experiences and will share their stories.

The pianists include:

  • Senior Mary Kolasa, a double-major in elementary education and music with a concentration in music studies, with piano as her main instrument. She loves playing piano and has been playing for 16 years and also teaches lessons as well. Kolasa plans to teach elementary school during the day and give piano lessons nights and weekends.
  • Junior Zhiyuan (Peter) Gao, a double-major in philosophy and music performance (French Horn is his primary instrument and piano his secondary instrument). He learned between the ages of 5 and 7, but came back to it in middle school. Gao plans to attend graduate school to study French Horn while continuing on the piano, and hopes eventually to become a band director, teacher or freelance musician.
  • Junior Katie Johnson, a nutrition-dietetics major who is not a music major or minor, but is an advanced pianist who performs regularly in the Student Performance Series. She feels that piano class is where the homework is always enjoyable and relaxing. Learning new music is something Johnson looks forward to each day. She hopes to get a Master’s degree in nutrition.  
  • Sophomore Channa Kalsow, a German and computer science double-major with an art minor who is a beginner/intermediate student on the piano and practices one hour a day. Kalsow loves playing the piano because it helps her escape from everyday life. She also enjoys the sense of accomplishment after mastering a new piece.

“As some of the students will share in the panel discussion, they didn’t realize they could study piano in college, until they actually got to college and discovered the possibility thanks to an adviser or a classmate,” Grinsteiner said.

“I hope to let private piano teachers know that this is a major advantage to a liberal arts education – their piano student has access to a full professor and receives the same training and level of engagement as a music major would,” Grinsteiner added. “They aren’t taught by graduate students, and their involvement in the department is limitless, regardless of their major.”

Although the convention (which runs from June 7-9) is online, you need to be registered ($49 fee) to view the feed. However, full-time college and high school students can register free of charge, and follow the student registration tab.