Dr. Galit Gertsenzon has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University and her doctorate in piano performance from the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Students interested in taking piano lessons or class piano can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What is your background, and how did you end up at AU?
A: I am originally from Israel. I grew up there, and I moved in 2003 to Cincinnati, Ohio to start my doctorate in piano performance. I was there seven years, and I met my now-husband there. He imported me to Yorktown, Indiana, so that’s how I ended up in the area.
I guess I’ve always wanted to work at Anderson, ever since the first time I visited here as an accompanist. In 2014, I was hired to accompany and teach class piano. I left later for another job, and then I was called again this summer to come back and teach the applied private piano students and class piano.
Q: Why do you love piano?
A: I just think it’s amazing how you can take a piece of wood, metal and ivory and make it sound in ways that you would never imagine. You can make people happy; you can instill emotions in people. There is so much about not just piano, but music, that it can change the way we think, make us happy instantly and comfort us.
There is such beauty about playing the piano that I don’t find in anything else that I do in life, except for loving my children. So I just find it is a wonderful experience, whether you are an amateur or if you are a professional.
Q: How do you think students benefit from taking piano lessons?
A: My motto for piano teaching is that I think that everyone can learn. I think that for anyone, from an early age to people who are retired, there’s a lot to learn, the learning never stops. When it comes to undergraduates, I think that having the option of taking piano class or piano lessons, no matter what you’re majoring in, whether it’s journalism, math, science or any other discipline, this is a one-time thing while you are a busy student, to be able to learn. Instantly, you can learn notes within just a few months, in class piano.
In private lessons, you have the chance of meeting with a teacher who has years of experience at least once a week for a semester. They mentor you in ways that other classes cannot. A piano teacher, I think, can also be a mentor, not just someone who teaches notes and how to play nice phrases. The benefit for someone who takes private piano lessons is learning how to take a discipline and discipline yourself.
It takes daily practice. It’s performance that I very much encourage, because performing puts you in a place with intention. On some levels, it’s a very healthy thing to take you forward in what you’re doing. For the class piano, someone who never played or played and has no recollection of their lessons, doing this now is opening a door for the future for anyone who wants to just sit down and play. I think that these things are very important for everyone.
Q: Do you think that some students might shy away from piano, or any applied musics, because they’re afraid they might not be good, or will be unable to learn?
A: Yes. I think there are a lot of people out there who had a bad experience as children, and I hear this sentence a lot: ‘I have no ear for music’ or ‘I have no talent for music.’ That’s not true, because of course some people have more tendency to be artistic, but I think that everyone can play.
Some people are just shy and do not want to play in public, and that’s okay, they don’t have to. In the class piano, I don’t call on anyone to play in front of everyone unless they really want to, because this can be sensitive for some people.
I think that a lot of adults shy away because of the time commitment, because you do have to practice in order to become good at something. Also, with adults older than just students, people in their 50s and up already have life experience and they might think that maybe they couldn’t do this, based on other life experience. But I think they should try.
Q: How many piano instructors are in AU’s program, and how does the piano sequence work?
A: We have several piano instructors in the school, and some of us are teaching the music education majors. Rebecca Edie teaches the music education students. We have a few other instructors who teach class piano. I teach the students who concentrate on piano studies as a minor, and those who take it as an elective. That means that any student at the university who has little experience can come and study with me, or take a class piano for non-majors.
The class piano for non-majors is for students who have little-to-no experience. If you know how to play piano, and you know how to read notes, the class piano is not necessarily going to help, but more private piano lessons will. There are two options: a half hour or an hour per week for private lessons. They should be aware that there is more of a fee when taking private piano lessons than class piano.
Q: At what skill level do students need to be in order to take private lessons?
A: It would be best for students to come see me first, so I can get an idea of what kind of experience they have. I would be happy to teach people who have no experience, but it might be better for them to start out with class piano. If they want to study piano, they should have at least 30 minutes a day free to practice, which I know is a lot if you are a student with a full course load. That can be hard.
What I love about this university is that any student, regardless of major, can continue with piano lessons. When I was a student, I had to concentrate so intensely on my piano that I did not have time to do anything else. What’s nice about programs at AU is that students can study other disciplines, but they can also study or minor in piano. I think that reduces stress because they don’t have to practice five hours a day, like I was. But this is all I do.
Q: And you love it?
A: I could not see myself without having music in my life. Teaching is a wonderful gift, and I think that being a teacher is something you must love and be passionate about, and I love it. My performing is not every day, it’s usually in the spring and in the fall. I cannot live my life without having this; it’s part of who I am. It’s really a major part of my life.