The Gilmore

Education Update: New Piano Lab

This fall marks the inauguration of The Gilmore’s first middle school Piano Lab, which is now underway at the Maple Street branch of the YMCA. The new middle school lab is a continuation of The Gilmore’s current elementary school labs as well as a potential introduction to piano for middle school students.

YMCA Piano Labs by Chris McGuire Photography

“The YMCA Piano Lab was an idea originally introduced in 2008,” said Adam Schumaker, director of education for The Gilmore. “2008 was also the economic downturn, so launching a new program took a back seat to maintaining the essence of the current education programs at the time. Many students expressed an interest in continuing piano in middle school, but for many, it was just not possible.”

Now, several hundred students in the greater Kalamazoo area participate in The Gilmore’s elementary after-school piano lessons twice each week at Woods Lake and Spring Valley schools. Outside support for the programs keeps them very low-cost, which opens the door to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to play the piano. The YMCA lab operates in a similar style, with a low-cost entrance fee for both YMCA members and non-members. Students can select Level 1 labs, for participants with no previous piano experience, or Level 2 labs, for those who may have taken elementary school lessons with The Gilmore or studied with a private teacher.

YMCA Piano Labs by Chris McGuire Photography

“We currently have 12 students in our inaugural classes,” Adam said. Half of those students were previously enrolled in The Gilmore’s elementary school labs, and Adam believes that number will grow “as the culture of Piano Labs extends into middle school, despite the increased requirements and schedules of a middle school student.”

Classes meet once per week for 14 weeks, culminating in a public recital in December for students and families. All materials are provided, including digital pianos, music and folders. Students also have the opportunity to apply for scholarships as needed.

While Piano Labs don’t replace the one-on-one aspect of a private lesson, they provide a social way for kids to learn and grow musically with their peers.

“Sometimes we can connect a student with a private teacher and help their family find funding to maintain private lessons,” Adam said. “But now we have an option for students to continue their group piano experience, at an affordable rate, in a great community setting.”

Adam looks forward to the future of music education in the community and believes this lab is an open door to great opportunities.

“It opens possibilities of other class offerings, like introductory or refresher classes for adults, or classes for students outside of the two elementary schools we serve.”

YMCA Piano Labs by Chris McGuire Photography