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Instrumental learning

Music teacher establishes piano lab

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POSTED: October 6, 2010 9:30 a.m.
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Students love the piano lab, where they learn the basics and practice "privately" via headphones.

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Students at Richmond Hill Elementary School (RHES) will now be able to reap the creative and educational benefits of music– and have some fun while doing it– thanks to the school’s new piano lab.

Music teacher Leif Ragnaldsen came up with the idea and saw it through to completion with the support of Principal Walt Barnes.

“We started talking about it at the beginning of this year,” said Ragnaldsen. “I presented Mr. Barnes with a bunch of information and he seemed to like it.”

The lifelong pianist said he discussed with Barnes “the crucial role that music plays in education, synthesizing math, science, language, and analytical skills.”

“Much of music is very mathematical, but it’s done from a different angle,” Ragnaldsen explained. “So I think it just enables the kids to learn in a different way and sometimes learn faster and more efficiently … and they’re learning a skill in itself, too.”

Ragnaldsen believes that the lab course will give students a head start on learning piano and other instruments, as well as acquaint them with the joys of creative expression.

The piano lab is equipped with 24 stations, each with its own keyboard and headphone set.

“All the kids at RHES will get to use the lab every two weeks,” said Ragnaldsen.

He stressed that the lab will not be akin to piano lessons, but rather, students will learn basic concepts. Group activities and private ones (achieved by plugging in headphones) will help to cement those concepts, while also allowing for creative exploration.

“We structure it as a lab … which means at least five or ten minutes of the class period is spent by themselves working, but they’re working on specific things that we’ve done for that day.”

Ragnaldsen hopes that students will build on their experience in the lab by taking on other endeavors: private lessons, joining the school band, learning other instruments, or even simply participating in group activities.

The reaction to the new piano lab by students has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Ragnaldsen.

One young boy exclaimed, “It’s like being in a band!”

“The kids just love (the keyboards) and I think they’re going to get so much out of them,” commented Ragnaldsen. “I’m just real happy to be able to do it for the kids, keep the kids happy.”

 

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