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Group music lessons bring beginners together

It was apparent moments into Colleen Argenziano’s piano lesson that her three young students were learning from each other.

“Can you name the first note?” asked Argenziano, a graduate student at UND.

After 8-year-old Bryn Larson and 7-year-old Ruby Leach called out wrong answers, 7-year old Ada Dauchtler chimed in with a loud, “C!”

“Good job,” Argenziano said. “Now who can put their hands in Middle C position?”

As their small hands fluttered over the keyboards in front of them, the girls exchanged obvious glances with each other to make sure their fingers were positioned properly.

While the trio struggled to play through a song together the first few times, they were playing in sync within 10 minutes.

“They kind of teach each other a lot of times,” Argenziano said. “If somebody knows a song really well, I’ll say ‘OK you can play it for everybody,’ and then they’ll say ‘She did a good job,’ or ‘She messed up this part,’ and they’ll help each other out.”

This lesson is part of a UND instructor and student initiative to bring music lovers together for group classes. The classes are offered to the community by UND faculty and graduate students.

Simona Barbu, an assistant professor of music at UND, took the reins of the school’s Community Music Program at the beginning of this school year. She said group lessons are oftentimes appealing because it’s less intimidating than being asked to play alone on the spot, especially for beginners.

This holds true for Bryn, who quit solo violin lessons and said she likes playing piano in a group much more.

“Bryn was definitely more excited about it when I told her it would be more than just her in the class,” her mother Chelsea said.

Making music together

But Barbu said these classes aren’t just for kids.

Kara Hartten, a graduate student at UND whose specialty is the cello, is starting a community orchestra in March.

Hartten currently teaches solo lessons because the people who have signed up are too varied in age and skill to group together, but she hopes the community orchestra will bring more people out of the woodwork.

“In general if you’re an adult and you want to play the viola, and you’re 45, you don’t really have a group that you can get that group experience with like you would if you were in sixth grade and playing in school.”

Hartten said the group lessons would fill a hole in what is currently offered throughout the Grand Forks community.

“They’re really a great way for adults and children to kind of learn with someone else and also be able to learn from watching them make mistakes,” she said.

That’s exactly what Argenziano’s young pupils continued to do throughout their lesson in UND’s Hughes Fine Arts Center.

“What kind of note is that?” Argenziano asked her attentive students, drawing a circle on the whiteboard the size of an orange.

After listening to a chorus of wrong answers, Bryn finally called out the correct one.

“A whole note!”

Article by Anna Burleson, www. grandforksherald.com, www.msidallas.com