Piano faculty member adjusts teaching style for the pandemic, discovers ways to refine future instruction

Sookkyung Cho
Sookkyung Cho, associate professor of piano

Sookkyung Cho said she has learned when teaching piano that a central goal is to be responsive to students.

Cho, associate professor of piano, had to maximize that notion during this academic year as she figured out a way to teach students piano while staying socially distanced. She said this challenged her as a detailed-oriented instructor, who, for instance, sits next to students to show them proper physical techniques.

But there were also silver linings: Having students play grand piano in a large, resonant hall allowed them to more quickly hear the result of adjustments Cho teaches them. Cho said that discovery has made her think about ways to incorporate this big-picture technique into future instruction.

This experience dovetails with her overall belief that she learns as much from students as they do from her.

READ MORE IN GRAND VALLEY MAGAZINE: New appreciation for the sound of music

Teaching from a distance, still making a connection

Sookkyung Cho works with a piano student.
Sookkyung Cho works with a piano student.
Sookkyung Cho works with a piano student.

Cho said she makes it a point to be a lifelong learner, both as an instructor and as a Juilliard-trained musician. As a musician, she relishes the joy of finding something new in a piece she has played countless times, keeping her fresh.

"Me setting an example of a lifelong learner is the greatest gift I think I can give to students," Cho said. "The more I am devoted to my own craft and my concerts, too, my ears become sharper."

Cho is another example of faculty members featured by GVNext throughout the year who optimized the learning experience and connection to students as they adjusted for pandemic limitations.

Watch Cho talk about her experience, along with her story on how she became a musician and instructor, in the video below.