MSU’s Piano Pedagogy “Key” for Detroit Cornerstone students

Professor promotes high quality music education for all through unique collaboration

As a world-class pianist and award-winning instructor, Derek Polischuk has no trouble infusing a passion for high quality music education in his students. But the associate professor and director of the Piano Pedagogy Program at Michigan State University won’t rest until high quality music education is available for everyone, regardless of economic status.

To help make that happen, Polischuk enlists a handful of his students to offer master classes and consultation in piano, strings, voice, and early childhood music at Cornerstone Schools in Detroit. Other students and faculty members from the MSU College of Music often join him on the once-a-semester visits.

“We spend four hours at the school and give master classes to the students—it’s kind of a public lesson,” explained Polischuk. “It's really an event that the students look forward to, and it’s very exciting because families come to watch—almost like a recital.”

MSU’s involvement with Cornerstone’s music program started in 2008 when Rhonda Buckley, associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Music, began looking for opportunities to connect with organizations in Detroit. Generous support from friends of the college as well as from Cornerstone made the relationship possible.

While the collaboration encourages Cornerstone students, Polischuk says MSU students also benefit from significant activities for personal and professional growth. About 35 of Polischuk's students have participated in the program over the past several years, and several have gone on to teach at Cornerstone. Polischuk frequently shares program successes at conferences around the country with hopes that other piano pedagogy programs will adopt the Cornerstone model.

“I want my students to know that there is a time and a place to take time out to work with people who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity,” says Polischuk of Cornerstone. “It's a program worth getting excited about.”

Source: The Engaged Scholar E-Newsletter, Volume 6, Issue 1, October 2013.

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