Teachers, students have fun with Salisbury’s downtown pianos

Published 12:15 am Sunday, May 31, 2015

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — It was her first time playing piano in public, but it didn’t take long before 6-year-old Caroline Lyerly had become comfortable, kicking off her flip-flops and launching into her favorite song, “Halloween Fun.”

Caroline was one of about eight piano students of teacher Hannah Case who played the downtown piano outside of the Meroney Theater Saturday afternoon. They weren’t the only ones.

Several piano teachers and their students were among the special guests invited to play the seven downtown pianos, which were decorated by art students in Rowan County’s high schools and unveiled by the Salisbury Symphony May 1. The pianos will remain downtown for anyone to play through Sept. 30, but Saturday afternoon it was all about teachers and their students.

Abby Sauder, 9, has been taking lessons for only 20 months, but she sat down and played a Beethoven piece by memory. Most people don’t know this, Abby said, but “Sauder” translates to “one who plays a stringed instrument.”

Abby has a 30-minute lesson with Case once a week, then practices a lot at home.

“She’s got the drive,” said her mother, Amanda Sauder. “I don’t have to make her. … It seems like a natural thing to her.”

Case, a teacher and accompanist, operates Case Studios out of her Salisbury home. Because of her husband’s job, she recently moved here from Hickory, where she had taught 40 students. Case promotes her lessons as a thorough study of music fundamentals, piano skills and the reading of music.

The Case Studios theme is, “The Art of Playing with a Passion.”

“She’s really nice and helps me with a lot of things,” said 10-year-old student Lena Le, who traveled from Hickory to play the downtown piano with other Case students.

Farther up South Main Street, in front of Maia Fashions, Diane Freeman’s students were taking turns on a piano that had been decorated by art students of South Rowan High School, where Diane’s husband, Wayne, is the art teacher.

“We just had to be on this piano,” Diane Freeman said.

Freeman, who also gives voice instruction, has been teaching piano for 25 years. She has 55 students at present, and the ages of her students over the years have ranged from 4 to 70.

“I strongly encourage my students to perform, so this is a great venue,” Freeman said as members of the Hogan family — Benjamyn, 9; Bethany, 11; and Brittney, 17; took turns at the keyboard. Bethany likes jazz, so she played both “Jazz in the Park” and “Celebration Boogie.”

Without music, Lexi Kluttz played the theme from the James Bond movie “Skyfall.” Freeman said a lot of her older students like to download songs from YouTube and learn them that way. Freeman herself gives half-hour lessons, and she expects her students to practice at least two hours in the period before the next lesson.

How long do her students really practice?

“That’s a loaded question,” Freeman said, and you get the feeling it would be for any piano teacher.

This is actually a busy time for piano teachers and students, many of whom are trying to prepare for spring recitals.

At other downtown pianos Saturday afternoon, performers included:

• Alden Wright, Carson High School junior and recent runner-up in the D.C. chapter of the American Guild of Organists/Franciscan Monastery Young Organists Scholarship Competition, at the old Empire Hotel, 226 S. Main St.

• Jacob Kluttz, East Rowan High School sophomore and self-taught son of one of the Kluttz Piano brothers, at Creative Teaching Aids, 310 S. Main St.

• Quson Brown & Tarik Woods, self-taught Salisbury High School juniors and concert band members at Textile Products, at 119-121 N. Main St.

• Dr. W. Dwayne Robertson, known as “Dr. Rob,” who has performed concerts in 12 states as well as venues such as the Biltmore House and the Governor’s Mansion, at the Salisbury Wine Shop, 106 S. Main St., playing a variety of music from Elton John and Disney to ragtime, jazz, and classical.

• At 5 p.m. Steven Thweatt, an award-winning pianist in college who’s gone on to entertain in person and on television, wandered from piano to piano with several of his students playing the likes of Rondo by Mozart, Adagio by Beethoven, The Little Shepherd by Debussy, some original compositions and a couple of blues numbers. They started at Textile Products on North Main Street and headed south.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.