GVSU music professor facilitates high school piano day

By Sidney Selvig | 3/26/17 10:30pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Caitlin Cusack


Almost everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing or playing an instrument. Music is a language that creates strong feelings and develops lasting memories. Events and programs driven by music play a large role in the community at Grand Valley State University, and help shape abilities and character for current and future students. Among these events is GVSU High School Piano Day.

High School Piano Day will take place Friday, March 31, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus.

Piano teachers from the Michigan Music Teachers Association received invitations for their students to participate in GVSU High School Piano Day. This year, 21 students from high schools all around Michigan are signed up; five of these students will be in the final concert and perform a piano duet or trio.

Event coordinator Sookkyung Cho, who recently accepted a position as assistant professor of piano and artist performer at GVSU, plans on bringing her expressionist style to High School Piano Day to ensure involvement with her students.

“For college students, it’s important to know what’s happening outside of your college bubble,” Cho said. “Life is happening very quickly and as a university we have this commitment to serve our future students.”

Cho holds a master of music degree from Peabody as well as bachelor of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from Juilliard, where she was honored with the John Erskine Graduation Prize.

GVSU High School Piano Day offers young minds an opportunity to take full advantage of learning and performing opportunities available both on campus and in the greater Grand Rapids community. This event also provides a chance for participants to explore various college degree options, musical career options and different ways to keep piano a part of one’s life without pursuing it as a profession.

High school students will start off the day with a complimentary breakfast buffet and various activities with fellow college students.

“I think it is important in this age of cell phones and talking to the media all the time,” Cho said. “It would be nice to get the community together with college students and fellow high schoolers.”

Throughout the day, participants with get to ask college students questions in a panel, accompany faculty in sight-reading, collaborative playing and piano pedagogy.

One of the faculty members who take part in teaching piano and sight reading for the event is Helen Marlais, who has a piano pedagogy certification in place through GVSU for those who are interested and focused on piano teaching. Marlias has been recognized throughout the United States and overseas for her pedagogical expertise and her collaborative performances.

A certain goal of High School Piano Day is to teach students to be a better accompanist and collaborator.

“I think the significant part to this event is visibility,” said Marlais. “We need to show the community what the GVSU music department has to offer to students.”

Music has the capacity to teach people things about themselves, other cultures and other periods of history; it contains infinite possibilities, like an ever-expanding universe with mystical qualities.

Even if students don’t plan on majoring in music, they are still encouraged to come and find out what’s available during GVSU High School Piano Day. 

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