Years of wishing they could play lead adults to take piano lessons CARROLL COUNTY EDUCATION

February 01, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

For every child who must be bribed with ice cream to practice, there is an adult who regrets not having learned to play the piano.

But who says it's too late? Certainly not the 13 people who completed the first adult piano class at Carroll Community College. A new class starts Feb. 11, and another is planned for summer.

Don't worry about getting bad grades: the class is not for credit. And everything moves at the individual student's level, said instructor Linda Filemyr.

While some of her students were still struggling through "Jingle Bells," one man with previous music experience was playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

A. Todd Sadowski is somewhere in between. The hardest thing he's been able to master is "Unchained Melody," the slow 1950s song reborn in the movie "Ghost."

Whenever he would see a piano at a party or a friend's house, Mr. Sadowski would say to himself, "I wish I could play that."

The 22-year-old Hampstead contractor also said he wants someday to have a living room with a baby grand in the middle of it.

"So I thought if I was going to have one, I should learn to play it," he said.

Most of the class members had never learned to play a musical instrument before.

"I played the radio," said Susan Ripper, 33, of Westminster. As with Mr. Sadowski, the conviviality of the piano appealed to her.

"I had this vision that one day my children will all be sitting around the piano singing, instead of watching television," she said.

Thanks to high technology, adults can take the class with little risk of embarrassment about how they will sound to other students.

The pianos are electronic -- but sound remarkably like a real piano. Each has a headphone so only the player hears the music. The instructor can hear through a headphone and console also, either one piano at a time or all together.

The set-up gave Cathy Webb of Sykesville the best of both worlds -- a casual group setting, and a way to keep her mistakes to herself.

"I was kind of scared of individual lessons," she said. "I just thought it would be easier to learn in a class."

She did try, however, before the Carroll Community College class was available this year, to take private lessons. She could find few teachers willing to take adults, she said.

After a few weeks of playing simple pieces from the book, she moved on to hymns. She would love to be good enough some day to fill in at her church, Elders Baptist Church.

Mrs. Ripper, who does computer work for St. John Catholic Church, said the Thursday night classes were a great way to unwind.

"It's a real release," Mrs. Ripper said. "It's like aerobic dancing or something."

Mrs. Webb, a 42-year-old public health nurse, said the atmosphere of the class is light and supportive.

The textbook is for adults, so the music is not nursery rhymes. Songs include "Oh! Susanna" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." But after the introductory weeks, Mrs. Filemyr lets students concentrate on the kinds of music they like. Most prefer classical. Mr. Sadowski and Mrs. Ripper also like popular music.

"After a few weeks, we were playing some simple Beethoven," Mrs. Webb said.

Neither Mr. Sadowski, Mrs. Webb nor Mrs. Ripper feels confident enough to play to entertain others yet, but all hope to get to that point.

"I entertain myself," Mr. Sadowski said.

The technology of the class impressed Mr. Sadowski, who took classes as a freshman at Carroll Community College before going on to Towson State University.

"This is a far cry from the Carroll Community College I knew," he said. When he attended, the campus was a series of small buildings on South Center Street. The college moved to the new campus built by the county in April 1991.

"It's about time they're doing this for the community," Mr. Sadowski said.

The three students finished in December, but because their last class session was canceled when the college closed for snow, they and Mrs. Filemyr volunteered to come back for a combination make-up session and goodbye party Thursday.

All three are thinking of enrolling again. Because the students move at their own levels, they can take the class over and over again.

"The price is right," Mrs. Ripper said. The course is $58 for the semester, with a discount for seniors, who made up about half of the enrollees. It meets Thursdays at 10 a.m. or 7:30 p.m. for one hour.

Mrs. Filemyr has taught children and adults to play piano for 20 years, in group and individual lessons.

"Adults are self-motivated," she said, in contrast to children who take lessons because their parents thought of it. "I act as facilitator for what they want to do and open up the door so they can do it."

Mrs. Filemyr doesn't believe learning is easier for children than it is for adults. It's just different, she said.

"People, when they're older, learn by association, which they are rich in," she said. "It's always been my thought that if you want to learn something bad enough, you'll do it.

Anyone considering the class can try a free session at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. To sign up, call Mrs. Filemyr at 876-1924.

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