Piano lessons changed my life. Because of the piano, I have had endless professional, personal and academic opportunities ranging from national television appearances to meeting politicians to the “Mozart Effect”, a term coined to describe the improved memorization, language skills and problem-solving ability acquired from piano lessons. I was exceptionally lucky to not only have access to music lessons, but to grow up in an environment where I was supported and encouraged. As a piano instructor, I try to recreate that same atmosphere for my students and nurture their passion so that music can inspire their lives to the same degree it inspired mine.
My dedication, confidence and concern for music education inspired me to volunteer with several arts-related service projects through Dorchester Collegiate Academy, Girls Rock! Rhode Island, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Providence CityArts and the Music Forward Foundation. While I truly believe that I helped the students participating in these initiatives, I have wondered what would happen once the programs were over. Would these kids have other opportunities to continue their music education? With only one of me, I realized I would have to take more of a “teach a man to fish”, rather than “give a man a fish” approach, in order to continue encouraging students beyond these programs.
I founded Changing Keys with the purpose of providing pianos to schools, community centers and students in at-risk communities that might not otherwise have access to music education. I believe that if an inner-city school is given a quality, working piano, then all of the students at the school will gain an opportunity to play it, express themselves and progress at their own level. With Google yielding 160 million results under “how to play piano”, there are unlimited resources for students to learn the basics of the piano, music theory and their favorite songs at their own pace; the true obstacle is obtaining the instrument itself.
The inspiration behind Changing Keys came from a combination of sources: a New York Times article about the increasing number of pianos ending up in the trash, Boston’s “Play Me I’m Yours” public piano display and several volunteering experiences. Two particular experiences had a significant impact on me and the development of Changing Keys. The first occurred while volunteering as the school music director where I had to teach students the entire score of "Annie" using a small, outdated and partially broken keyboard. The unreliable keyboard often made rehearsals difficult and frustrating. Additionally, I was unable to teach another student how to play the accompaniment arrangements like I had originally hoped. The second experience involved a student who would come into her private lesson frustrated and upset every week. Although intelligent and determined, her foster family did not have the money or space for a piano, preventing her from being able to practice and progress at home.
Both of these circumstances demonstrate the need for an organization like Changing Keys. At this Boston middle school, a reliable piano would not only allow the cast to get more out of the experience, but ensure that the school could produce more musicals in the future, creating opportunities for more students to participate. For my private student, a piano at her local school or library would give her, and dozens of others, a piano to practice with and improve in a safe and educational environment. Eventually, I was able to secure a small keyboard for this student and I have witnessed a transformation in her self-esteem and attitude. She now comes to her lesson ecstatic, focused and eager to learn. The purpose of Changing Keys is to recreate this moment, this turning point, in a student’s life and give them the opportunity to accomplish what they never thought possible.
Thank you for your interest in Changing Keys and taking the time to read about the story behind this initiative. I am confident in the ability of music education to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth; I am also confident that with the support of others, Changing Keys will flourish and supply unprecedented confidence, self-expression, memories and experiences to all of its recipients.