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Teaching sweet music

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | June 7, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Practice, practice, practice.

With a metronome ticking, and a finger pointing. It's an image often conjured up in the minds of those who don't know better, when they hear the words "piano teacher."

Members of the North Idaho Music Teachers Association shake their heads and laugh at the generalization. They know it's a stereotype that diminishes the true depth of passion and professionalism found in today's private music teachers.

This spring, the local chapter of the Music Teachers National Association, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. For a decade, they've been promoting musical culture and education in the region, working to bring students and teachers together and out into the community to share the experience of connecting through the language of music.

"We also share with each other ideas," said Theresa Hinrichsen, one of the group's founding members. "You always have to develop your teaching as things change over the years."

Most of the group's 13 members have advanced musical education and performance experience.

"I knew by ninth grade that I wanted to be a music teacher and that I was going to be a music major in college," Hinrichsen said.

Through the years, their students have performed 25 recitals in local retirement homes, and participated in two annual festivals the music teachers' group coordinates for them.

They also regularly coordinate recitals and workshops with the Spokane Music Teachers Association chapter.

Peggy Lembeck, also a founding member and former public school teacher, said she always had "a special feeling for music and children."

In her early years as an educator in California, Lembeck started a preschool music program that she brought to different schools.

Ask the women about their students, and their eyes light up.

"It's just such a joy to see these kids come along," Lembeck said.

When the teachers gather, they support each other by exchanging teaching techniques, but there is also a lot of laughing and joking.

Lembeck tells a story about a 7-year-old girl she was teaching.

"I was telling her about 'Ode to Joy,' Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," Lembeck said.

She explained to the child that Beethoven was deaf and couldn't hear the orchestra, or the applause, when the piece was performed publicly.

The great composer didn't realize how much people liked his work until a member of the orchestra told him to turn around and look at the audience, Lembeck explained to the child.

"She looked at me with big eyes and said, 'Were you there?'" Lembeck says laughing.

Both women said social changes over the last decade have affected the course of music education.

"One positive change is that parents now view it as a vital part of general education," Hinrichsen said. "Their support is critical. We need to work together."

At the same time, keeping students engaged in studying music, when there are so many other activities and new technologies competing for their attentions, has become more of a challenge.

The family pressures kids feel have increased today as well, Hinrichsen said. There are more divorces and economic issues, and children are expected to do more school homework than ever before.

When a family chooses to continue a child's musical education, despite some of their personal challenges, "It's amazing. That's when we feel really blessed."

The group encourages area music teachers to consider membership.

Information: 772-7928

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