A Piano Teacher, A Piano Life
I studied piano from a young age.
My grandmother, who lives with my grandfather at Greencroft, was my first piano teacher; I started when I was five. I was always drawn to the piano, and I was already immersed in it by the time I was old enough to think about how much it means to me.
My parents told me that, starting at age three, we’d come home from church on Sundays and I would immediately go to the piano and climb up, and settle onto the bench, and then—reaching as far as I could—try to pick out the melodies from church.
I love that the piano is an instrument on which you can recreate a lot of what you hear. The piano offers so much versatility, and such a range of sounds and emotions that can be expressed.
There are just so many ways to make music with a piano.
Finding her own way as a musician
I live in Goshen with my family; I’m a piano teacher and freelance collaborative pianist. I operate a private piano studio for students of all ages, Ana Yoder Coulter Piano Studio, and I work as an applied piano instructor and staff pianist in the Music Department at Goshen College.
Sometimes I stretch the schedule a bit thin, but I love the variety that comes with being a teacher and collaborative pianist. Some teachers focus mainly on working with students, some focus on teaching and performing. We all have to figure it out and find our own way.
I’ve worked with students from ages five to 75, and I truly enjoy the process of figuring out each individual’s needs, and the best way to help them reach their full potential. Everyone is different, and learns differently, and so there is learning in this for me, as well. I am constantly learning to grow and be a better teacher; I think the best teachers are always learning.
The image of a piano teacher, with a student, in a room, is timeless. The practice has changed, however, and there are new challenges and new tools; there are things they couldn’t do a generation ago, like sending links to Youtube videos for their students to watch. I’m continuing to learn and adapt and experiment with all these new tools.
Seeing the world, settling in Goshen
I grew up in Elkhart County, went to Jimtown schools, and then throughout my high school years my family lived in Nairobi, Kenya. In Kenya I studied piano with a teacher named Ludwig Omondi. I’ve always felt grateful for the knowledge base he gave me, and the variety of music he encouraged me to play.
When we came back I went to Goshen College and received a Bachelor of Arts in Music (piano pedagogy) then I went on to earn a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano at Bowling Green State University.
Goshen College was a good experience for me, musically, and I’m grateful they provided opportunities to start teaching while I was still a student—that was an invaluable learning experience that helped me find my path as a pianist.
Goshen, overall, is a place where there is strong community support for the arts, and a lot of enthusiasm and participation with arts and music education. Goshen values music, and it’s nice to do what I do in a community like ours.
Joys and rewards…
As a piano teacher I don’t assume every young student who comes to me is going to play forever, but I do always hope that they develop a love of music that lasts the rest of their lives. There’s great joy in developing these ongoing relationships with students, and being able to guide them through the various stages of accomplishment.
It’s true that the tools have changed and the practice has changed somewhat. But that feeling you have when you’ve helped a student progress further than they thought they could, when you’ve helped someone reach some meaningful milestone…that good feeling will never change.
Ana Yoder Coulter, owner of Ana Yoder Coulter Piano Studio, has over a decade of experience as a teacher and is an active member of the Music Teachers National Association and its local chapter, the South Bend Area MTA. She also works as an applied piano instructor and staff pianist in the Goshen College Music Department. For more information about Ana Yoder Coulter Piano Studio, visit https://www.aycpianostudio.com/.
Written by Jake Sandock
Original publish date Jan. 2024