Two weeks ago, students took their books and their laptops home to continue their studies online due to the coronavirus pandemic. But for piano students in the School of Music, this wasn’t so simple.
Once the Music building closed, the pianos in the practice rooms could not be accessed, leaving many students who didn’t have a piano at home without an instrument to continue their studies.
That was until Dr. Annie Jeng, assistant professor of piano, had an idea.
Once Jeng learned that courses were moving online, she contacted colleagues and friends and posted on social media asking if anyone would be willing to lend their 88-key weighted keyboard to one of her students.
“I really just wanted our students to feel that they were cared for and supported and that they would be able to continue their piano studies during this time,” said Jeng. “I also feel like during this time is when they’re going to be needing music the most.”
Jeng was amazed by how many UNCG staff, faculty, and even Greensboro community members she had never met reached out to offer up their keyboards.
Over the course of three days, Jeng and a few of her UNCG colleagues, self-appointed as “Annie’s Keyboard Delivery Service,” picked up the keyboards and delivered them to each student. They used disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer between each transaction and accepted only “elbow high-fives” in return.
Thanks to the School of Music Director Dennis Askew, the controller keyboards in a computer lab were donated to the 11 class piano students. And thanks to the generosity of the UNCG and Greensboro community members, all 15 piano majors who needed an 88-key weighted keyboard were provided with one.
“I am really appreciative of what Dr. Jeng has done for me and my classmates,” said master’s student Huixian Wu. “As an international student, the piano in the school’s practice room is always my only choice to practice on. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to practice when the building closed, but Dr. Jeng solved that problem. I am so thankful because this means I can continue my studies.”
Dr. Jeng is now successfully giving piano lessons to her students from her “living room studio.” She notes that it warms her heart to see the students who received keyboards continuing to work on their craft, and she is happy to still be able to teach them.
“For a lot of these students, they came to UNCG to study piano. Piano brings joy to these students’ lives. For me as a teacher, it’s very easy to feel hopeless in this situation and feel like I can’t do anything to help. This was my way of supporting my students, and I personally feel much more fulfilled now that I was able to do this for them. Seeing their reactions and how appreciative they were when I delivered the keyboards meant a lot to me.”
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Dr. Annie Jeng and Huixian Wu