- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Students at Quincy’s St. Dominic School are getting more exposure to music through a newly created digital piano lab.

The lab was developed over the summer by Nan Wood, the school’s music teacher and technology coordinator. She bought two digital pianos at an auction, and two other pianos were donated. Wood then received a grant to buy display tables for the pianos, benches, sustain pedals and new sheet music from beginner to advanced levels.

Wood has been using the piano lab since the academic year started in August to give group lessons to St. Dominic students after school. She also incorporates the lab into her music classes.

“Even the kids who don’t take lessons from me after school will still get time during music class to at least be exposed to it and learn some of the basics,” she said.

One goal in having the piano lab is to give students more opportunities to perform. Wood plans to do this by involving her piano-playing students in Wednesday morning Masses in the school’s gymnasium.

The first of these group performances took place two weeks ago. All four of the digital pianos were brought to the Mass and played by students, while Wood accompanied on a piano and another teacher played the guitar.

“It added so much to the Mass,” Wood said.

She plans to continue these performances indefinitely.

“It gives the kids a chance to showcase what they can do in front of the whole school and gives them lots more opportunities to perform,” Wood said. “The more chances you have to get up and perform in front of a group, the more self-confident you become.”

Wood also has been hosting weekly jam sessions for students in the piano lab.

Wood said she came up with the idea for creating a piano lab this summer when she taught a piano class for beginners during Children’s College at John Wood Community College, which has its own digital piano lab.

“I had such a great time, and the kids had so much fun,” she said. “I thought, ‘How can I make a lab like this happen for my kids at St. Dominic?’ “

That’s when she started acquiring a few digital pianos, with help from donors. Once the pianos were in hand, Wood applied for the grant to buy vital accessories.

“I can have these keyboards, but without the stands and the benches and the music, it doesn’t do me a lot of good,” she said.

Wood then sought and received a $375 grant from the Mary Ridder Cherny Fund, which was created through the Community Foundation in memory of a well-known local musician who died several years ago.

“Her family set up this fund to honor her commitment to music,” Wood said.

Wood hopes the lab will help ignite musical passion in students.

“Music is a lifelong thing they can enjoy and take part in,” she said. “I’m convinced that music does help a student focus. There’s plenty of research out there showing that those who participate in music really do better in their language skills, reading skills and math skills.”


Online: www.whig.com


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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