Jolene with her local Augusta childhood teacher, Tina Powers
From my earliest memories, music has been one of the great loves in my life. I can remember as a child trying to get my best friend to listen to my John Philip Sousa cassette tape and being amazed that she didn’t find it interesting. A little later I came across a tape of Tchaikovsky and from then on I was hooked for life. I would listen to any classical music I could get my hands on while working on my homework (or just listen to the music and ignore my schoolwork). My mom had a firm belief in having each child in the family take at least one year of music lessons so when I turned 11 or 12 (I can’t remember which) my mom signed me up for piano lessons with Tina Powers. I can remember thinking “if I can get my hands to behave, I’ll have the whole orchestra at my fingertips!” I loved going to lessons. Ms. Powers always made the lessons fun, was patient with my mistakes, and taught me to enjoy playing piano as much as I enjoyed listening to it.
After graduating from high school and considering a couple of different majors for college, I decided to try majoring in music. I didn’t think I had the skill level necessary to be a great pianist but I enjoyed it too much to just put it to the side. Augusta University (at the time Augusta State University) accepted me into the music program and I was assigned to Dr. Clara Park’s studio. Those were some of the most challenging and wonderful years of my life to date. Dr. Park pushed me to do my very best. Sometimes it was painful but she encouraged me to work for excellence in my craft and was willing to help me reach it. She believed me capable when it felt like no one else, including myself, did.
Jolene with Dr. Clara Park from Augusta University
Around my junior year in college, I started teaching piano and discovered I really enjoyed it. And in the process of learning to teach, I found I learned my own pieces better because I started to approach them from a teacher’s perspective. By the time I graduated with a degree in piano performance, I was the pianist for a church and I felt comfortable teaching beginner to early intermediate level students. I wanted to be able to teach all levels comfortably and so decided to apply to graduate programs.
Jolene with Dr. David Murray from Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University accepted my application and I spent two years studying piano performance with Dr. David Murray. During this time, I was able to learn the skill of accompanying from Dr. Karla Rocker thanks to the assistantship that was given me while I was there. Dr. Murray taught me to listen to myself as I play, which I wasn’t truly doing. He also taught me how to “hear” what was on the page; To notice the details within a musical score and bring them into the music. He required that I apply the knowledge I had learned in high school and college, but generally ignored until a teacher pointed it out, to what I was currently learning.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about life from learning and teaching my instrument. It taught me:
● How to study well – by working at it every day and not waiting until the last minute.
● It’s ok to make mistakes – keep going! keep trying! You can survive and learn from them.
● Patience is essential – whether it be for yourself or others.
● Details are important – they make the difference between sloppy and beautiful and can show how much you actually care.
● Criticism is helpful – it can be painful but with the right mindset it shows you where you can improve.
● There is always room for improvement – do the best you can then move on.
● Not to wait for someone to tell you to do something you already know to do – it wastes time and energy.
● Life is an adventure in growing – there is always more to learn, sometimes it is worth it to take on “impossible” tasks just to see how far you can get and what you can learn.