Walking into the basement of the Hess Center for the Arts, one often hears the faint murmur of a harmonious piano melody, the lilting, lyrical notes of a singer, or perhaps the vibrant solo of a flutist.
For the student artists at Deerfield who play a musical instrument or sing, private lessons with the music staff are available to help develop skill in various artistic pursuits. Regardless of whether students wish to pick up the cello for the first time, or continue training voice following years of instruction, anyone can sign up for weekly lessons. The incredible selection of musical offerings that students can pick from includes “all orchestra strings, woodwinds, brass, piano, voice, guitar, organ, bagpipes, drumset and percussion, as well as composition and improvisation,” according to the Music Department.
Anthony Berner, a violin and viola instructor as well as a chamber music coach, started teaching at Deerfield in 2004. He brings fifty years of classical music experience to the table, having performed at Lincoln Center and the Aspen Music Festival, among other distinguished venues. He started teaching as a college student, and said, “It’s important for me to teach what I do myself as a musician so that the students can learn to teach themselves.” He added, “Musicians all have the same issues because it’s extremely difficult to play an instrument, whether you are a seasoned musician or a beginner.” He pointed out that it’s all about making the music come to life and accomplishing not just technical skill, but also delving deeper “to truly serve the music.”
Music is indeed a form of expression that transcends the act of learning all the right notes and being able to execute perfect arpeggios or trills. In a deeper sense, music can be about living in the composer’s life, creating stories and feeling the embedded emotions or changes in mood should the musician choose to meet the piece halfway.
The mutual act of engaging in music as the music engages in you is an idea echoed by Yu-Mei Wei, a piano instructor and chamber music coach. The winner of numerous international piano competitions and a member of two renowned chamber groups, her musical career started at just six years old. She recently joined the Academy after moving to Deerfield with her family, and started teaching students this school year.
Mrs. Wei called herself lucky that piano is her passion since teaching and performing comprise the bulk of her career. She said, “I’ve definitely had my ups and downs with piano, because it can be hard being shut in a four-walled room for a long time, playing alone.” She added, “But that’s where chamber music comes in. Playing with a group of other musicians is an excellent solution to the problem of loneliness and solitude in music.”
Both Mr. Berner and Mrs. Wei agree that seeing their students improve is the best part of teaching. Mrs. Wei stated, “I view my student as my equal partner. When it clicks and there is a mutual connection between me and my partner, we both know that it was a good lesson.” Mr. Berner said, “It’s definitely fun when the student has a eureka moment.”
The teachers behind our private lessons passionately work to help students find their “eureka moments.” They continue to make their mark on the musical world, and with every lesson, learn more and more about what music has to offer, right alongside their protégés.