Time and time again, Susan Steen tried learning to play the piano through traditional classes. She remembers hours of practicing chords only to feel unaccomplished at the end of the year.
She, like many others, needed a different approach to learning the keys – a technique that was fun and not time consuming. As the owner of a graphic design and marketing business, Steen doesn’t have the freedom to spend countless hours practicing.
But then she discovered Piano for Pleasure, a new group-based piano class taught in an organic manner.
Owner Jane McNulty explains how the class is geared toward individuals who have dabbled in piano or have it on their bucket list.
She opened the piano studio in downtown Murfreesboro to provide the technique of Recreational Music Making as an option to adult students. Since August, she has incorporated children and teen classes.
“As I have learned more about Recreational Music Making, I have learned that playing piano is about more than just making music or striking some chords,” McNulty says.
Recreational Music Making is a new and energetic wellness program that is built around teaching piano in a fun and easy way – and without the stress.
“As a longtime piano instructor, I am astonished as to not only the simplicity of learning piano (using RMM), but also the amazing wellness benefits,” she added. “The workshop introduces the wellness benefits of not only playing the piano, but of music itself. Learn the power that music has on our health and how to incorporate more music into your life. Learn how to listen, when to listen and what to listen to for maximum benefit.”
McNulty quotes Karl Bruhn, who is known as the father of the music making and wellness movement, as saying, “Recreational Music Making encompasses enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group music-based activities that unite people of all ages regardless of their challenges, backgrounds, ethnicity, ability or prior experience. RMM ultimately affords unparalleled creative expression that unites our bodies, minds and spirits."
This “uniting of people” really drew McNulty to the technique.
“In a time when we are spending time wrapped up in our technological communities, it is a beautiful thing to think of people spending time together for a little time each week healing themselves through the experience of making music,” she said.
The whole approach of the course is very organic and simple.
“You don’t have to practice, you don’t have to own a piano – the process we do just very simply approached,” McNulty describes. “It is a fun, community workshop (in a group with other people), and it is a whole-brain activity. I really encourage adults to do this as a stress-reliever, and to improve mood swings and mental acuity.”
Countless studies have proven the benefits of music, but they are also evidenced in the excitement exhibited on the faces of students. Steen described an 80-year-old student who brought some of his lady friends down to the studio to hear him play "Clair de Lune,” which he learned in the workshop.
“The joy and pride in something he accomplished in two months, it speaks volumes to me,” she said. “And that’s what I’ve seen over and over.”
Students can attend a class for 45 minutes once a week in a relaxing environment.
“It’s a very relaxed studio; it’s very pleasant to be there. I walk in and just (sigh), like I can breathe. It’s a real compliment to her that she has created that kind of space,” Steen describes.
“And a lot of this is just Jane (McNulty). It is her personality. She knows how to connect to people, and I think that just makes a huge difference. She tells you over and over, ‘Don’t stress about it; it will flow. You just have to trust the process.’ And that takes a lot of the pressure off, so you can relax in the music.”
By playing along with music, Steen says, “You feel like you have played a masterpiece after just a few songs.” Students are also welcome to attend any classes throughout the week and on Saturday. Additionally, to complement the downtown carriage rides and holiday festivities, McNulty is opening her studio to offer free lessons from 5-8 p.m. on Fridays through the third week of December.
Piano for Pleasure
310B W. Main St. (next to the Music Stop)