SDSU faculty inspired BMTA to assist Boys and Girls club through piano lessons

Kali Lingen

Kali Lingen

The SDSU Music Department, along with the Boys and Girls Club of Brookings and the Brookings Music Teachers Association (BMTA), has been offering free piano lessons to at-risk children in the Brookings community since October.

SDSU faculty member Mary Walker introduced the idea of free piano lessons to BMTA. The organization agreed to supply volunteer teachers to the program, and then Walker decided that the Brookings Boys and Girls Club members could benefit from the program.

Originally, the lessons were going to be held at the Boys and Girls Club of Brookings, but because of the limited space, the lessons are held in the Music Department’s piano lab. The SDSU piano lab has 12 digital pianos, which are used for the program.

“Piano lessons are valuable and not everyone can afford them,” said Walker. She also said everyone can benefit from piano lessons which is why she wanted to begin the program.

The Boys and Girls Club of Brookings Executive Director Vanessa Merhib said the lessons “broaden the spectrum for the arts and music, and the children can learn something they may not have had an opportunity to do so.”

Merhib also said that providing the free piano lesson program to children who are members of the Boys and Girls club who may not be able to afford it is a great idea.

The Boys and Girls Club members who received free lessons last semester did not have to pay for piano books or the lessons, said Walker. The children did have to pay for the transportation to and from the SDSU campus via the Brookings Area Transit Authority (BATA). About half of the children who were involved in the program were provided with a scholarship from the Boys and Girls Club to cover the cost of the BATA transportation. This semester, the program will continue to be free for the members who participate.

Since October, eight to 10 children in third and fourth grades participated in the program. That number could rise this semester, said Merhib, because now second graders are also able to sign up for the free lessons.

Even though Katie Johnson, a freshman pre-nursing major from Baltic, is not helping with the program, she does think teaching piano is important.

“Piano lessons make a person more well-rounded,” Johnson, who took lessons as a child, said.

According to the Boys and Girls Club mission statement, the Boys and Girls Club is an organization that inspires young people to realize their full potential and later, become productive, responsible and caring citizens.

The BMTA consists of about 20 piano, vocal and guitar teachers in the Brookings area. Some of the teachers from BMTA have college degrees in music and some are certified through the National Music Teacher’s Association.

Students interested in helping can contact the Boys and Girls Club of Brookings.

#1.882023:3472883795.jpg:BMTA piano lessons.jpg:Lois Darrington, volunteer BMTA piano teacher, explains how to count a measure of music to piano student Marisa Kelli Allen.:Courtesy