Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

Tickling the Ivories:

Music graduate finds herself at the other end of a piano bench
Kimberly Dreisbach describes advantages of music degree program at Huntington University, a Christian college.

Kimberly says one of the most important things she realizes about her education from Huntington was that her piano lessons were always about much more than just sheet music.

After countless hours of tickling the ivories in the Huntington University practice rooms, Kimberly Dreisbach found herself at the other end of the piano bench. Kimberly, a 2001 Huntington University graduate, studied Piano Pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma for her doctoral degree. She now teaches group piano and piano pedagogy at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

“Pedagogy is the science of teaching,” Kimberly explains. “A lot of pianists get their undergraduate degrees in performance without ever learning the different methods of how to teach properly.”

Teaching piano wasn’t always a dream for Kimberly, a native of Findlay, Ohio. When she first arrived at Huntington as a freshman, she wasn’t even a part of the music program. However, having taken piano lessons since age four, Kimberly still wanted to sharpen her skills and continue her musical growth.
With some encouragement from the music faculty, Kimberly decided to pursue her degree in music. “I decided to major in music when Dr. Spedden and some of the other professors helped me see that there were careers available for pianists,” Kimberly said.

Piano keys may be black and white, but life sometimes isn’t. During the spring of her senior year at Huntington, Kimberly seriously debated attending graduate school and struggled to make a decision. She credits Dr. Patricia Spedden with providing the gentle nudge that led her to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Nebraska.

“Dr. Spedden encouraged me to pray about it,” Kimberly said. “She told me she was praying for me and that her family was praying that I would make a good decision. She knew a professor at Nebraska and thought we would get along well so she encouraged me to audition. I never in a million years thought that I would be living in Lincoln, Neb. But when I went there to audition, it became apparent that it was the place for me.”

Upon graduating from Huntington, Kimberly spent her summer serving as a camp counselor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest. The camp gave Kimberly the opportunity to express both her passion for music and her love for God, two areas in Kimberly’s life that were fine-tuned at Huntington University.

Her campers frequently asked her why she seemed different than some of the other counselors and she was able to share with them the Christ-centered values of her life. “It was neat to spend so much time with high school kids who are in the transition of their lives,” she said. “I had countless opportunities to share my faith." 

The following fall, Kimberly headed to Nebraska to begin graduate studies. Originally focused on piano performance, she later changed direction and began to study Music Piano Pedagogy. While pursuing her doctorate and instructing her own students through a teaching assistantship, Kimberly says one of the most important things she realized about her education from Huntington University was that her piano lessons were always about much more than just sheet music.

“The private music lesson situation is a great way to talk about things one-on-one with your professors,” Kimberly reflects. “Especially at Huntington, that unique situation was utilized to not only teach music or piano, but also to talk about how my life was going – generally and spiritually. It wasn’t just music I was learning, but I was building relationships with my professors. I try now to look at all my students as having spiritual needs as well as musical needs — to look at all my students as real people who have real lives outside of their piano lessons.”

In 2006, Kimberly began as an adjunct faculty member at Oklahoma City University. She taught seven classes of group piano each semester in her first year and also made curricular and administrative decisions regarding secondary piano and the piano proficiency. In 2007, she added piano pedagogy to her teaching schedule.

In addition, she worked on a major project independent of her coursework, titled findpianoworks.com. It is a searchable, online database of pedagogical literature, where pieces can be found and cross-referenced by criteria such as level of difficulty, title, composer and technical problems.
She later went on to teach group piano and piano pedagogy at Bowling Green State University.

During her years at Huntington, Kimberly says she had musical opportunities that undergraduates at larger universities don’t often receive, such as accompanying the choir, playing in honors recitals and participating in concerto competitions.

“I had the chance to play with the orchestra twice at Huntington which was a big deal,” she said. “Most undergraduates, at least at my graduate schools, hardly ever had opportunities to do that.”

By earning her undergraduate degree from a small, Christian college and her master’s degree from a large, public university, Kimberly has experienced both ends of the educational spectrum. In the midst of doctoral studies, she said that mix gave her a strong foundation for the future, helping her to be successful no matter where she teaches.

“I feel after all the different experiences I have had that I’ll be prepared to work anywhere,” Kimberly said. “I’m glad I’ve gone to a secular school for my graduate degrees, but my Huntington University experience provided a good foundation for me professionally and spiritually. Huntington is smaller than a lot of places, but it gave me so many experiences, including opportunities to work alongside great professors.”

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