Shortly after its invention circa 1700, the piano became a mainstay of western culture. Whether it was the forced lessons as an adolescent, the Yamaha keyboard your musical friend had or the upright at grandma’s house, the piano has not lost its cultural significance. The piano faculty at Allegheny are here to assuage your appetite.
Kelli Shellito, ’93, an adjunct piano instructor, has been tutoring piano students at Allegheny for 14 years. Shellito graduated from Allegheny College before pursuing her masters in piano performance at Duquesne University. After a total of 30 years teaching piano, Shellito said she is still being challenged by her students.
“For me, the most challenging part of teaching is the diversity. Every student learns differently,” said Shellito. “In other words, there is not one particular way to teach. I am continuously changing my teaching methods with every student I instruct.”
While diversity makes for hard work, Shellito said sharing the gift of music with others is what makes it so enjoyable. The students are all very dedicated and are always striving to achieve their best said Shellito.
“I have been blessed with wonderful students,” said Shellito.
The school also welcomes Douglas Jurs, assistant professor of music, to the music department family as he begins his first semester. Jurs was hired for his piano prowess as an applied lessons teacher, but his job does not end there. Jurs also teaches the music appreciation class, an introductory music course in the traditional western style with a twist.
“The world of classical music has changed a lot in the past 20 years,” said Jurs. “It used to be dead european white males. My goal is to put the great music of the past in the context of the present.”
It is important, Jurs pointed out, that the students are engaged in the content. Music appreciation is a class for students with no background in music whatsoever, so keeping the material relevant to individual students interests is essential said Jurs.
David Lynn, ’17, is a trumpet and piano student at the school who has been playing for 14 years. For Lynn, piano provides a greater challenge than the trumpet does, allowing him to devote time to each individual hand, the harmony of the two, as well as the overall style. Although Lynn is a piano veteran, he represents a community of music players and enthusiasts alike.
“Music is not only a major part of my life, but also the lives of most of this campus,” said Lynn. “We are constantly engaged in a musical environment which influences and enhances our lives, no matter how small.”
While YouTube videos are a good way to learn basics, you should speak to any music faculty member and ask about classes or lessons said Lynn.
“Our culture today is moving faster and faster, music and the arts in general are among the last remaining traditions that allow us to break from that,” said Jurs.
Jurs encourages all students to become involved in the music department. Free classes are available to all students regardless of experience or skill level. Even with how busy students are these days, there are ways to get involved said Jurs. The first faculty recital given by Jurs will be on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 3:15 p.m. in Ford Chapel.