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LU to offer piano for beginners

Thursday afternoons on Longwood’s campus will be more energetic than normal starting this March.

Longwood is launching the Longwood Center for Community Music, an outreach program for beginning piano students, both children and adults. Each Thursday afternoon, dozens of children will gather in Wygal Hall to learn about music, move to its rhythms and start to explore the piano. Private adult lessons will be arranged on an individual basis.

At the center of it all is Kristen Topham, a piano teacher and director of the center. But don’t expect the students to start by plugging away at scales. “I’ve always believed that introducing young people to music in a group setting allows them to begin to understand the language of music,” Topham said.

“We’ll begin teaching them how music works by singing and starting with a lot of movement rather than sitting young children down at a piano and forcing them to memorize simple songs.”

Group classes for 5- and 6-year-olds will begin March 10 at 4 p.m. in Wygal Hall on Longwood’s campus. More structured group classes for children aged 7 and up will also begin March 4 at 5:15 p.m. in Wygal Hall. Each student in the group session will also have follow-up weekly lessons with Topham.

Longwood students, mostly piano and music education majors, will be involved in teaching the group classes. “I want to get Longwood students involved because this can be helpful for their careers as well,” Topham said. “In addition to sharing their love of music with the community, they get valuable experience teaching groups of children as they move into classrooms or band halls in middle and high schools.”

Topham will gauge interest in adult group piano lessons and formalize a schedule based on availability. Those interested should contact her at tophamk@longwood.edu. 

“This is what I love to do,” Topham said. “I started teaching group piano lessons more than a decade ago as a graduate student and then transitioned into a private studio for smaller groups, but I’ve always wanted to get back to this type of setting. It’s a great way to start out children on a lifetime of music.”

Group classes for the 5-6-year-olds are $100 for 10 weeks. Group classes for the older children are $180 for 10 weeks, which includes weekly private lessons. For more information or to sign up, contact Kristen Topham at (434) 395-2503 or tophamk@longwood.edu.