For many teen piano students, going to college means the end of their involvement with the instrument. The unfortunate part of this is that it's not a choice; it's dictated by circumstances.
This about it: A child starts learning piano at around age 5 and spends a great deal of time at the instrument over the years. She loves music and gets a lot of enjoyment and many other benefits from her musical activities. Perhaps she learns chords and plays pop music while her friends sing along. Or maybe she develops the self-discipline to master challenging classical pieces which she performs in recitals. Whatever the case may be, piano is an integral part of her childhood and teen years.
But then it ends.
She gets accepted into a good university and has a full courseload of math, language, and other courses. She moves away from home and is excited to meet new friends and immerse herself into the new environment. I know many students in this situation and they all tell me that they wish they could continue with piano but they don't know how. They will miss music and regret the fact that this chapter in their lives is ending. (I'm not speaking about music majors here. I'm addressing this to the majority of young pianists, who play piano but choose to study another academic subject.)
Some of them, though, ask me how they can keep the piano (and music in general) in their lives during this transition. This is what you can do if you want to keep piano part of your life during your college years:
1. You can see if your college's music department offers piano lesson to non-music majors. Unfortunately, many colleges do not do this. But some do, so check it out. If you can't get lessons with a faculty member, see if there is a community music school nearby or affiliated with the university. (In fact, this is how I myself took piano lessons during my first semester at UCONN, before I transferred into music. I was originally in liberal arts.)
2. Buy a portable keyboard for your dorm room. When I was a freshman, there was a student down the hall who'd play acoustic guitar while watching the late-night talk shows every night. I'll bet he played about an hour each evening, without losing any social time since his room was full of our dorm-mates watching TV as well! He had found a way to stay active with his music.
3. If you can't find time in your college schedule to go to piano lessons, you can study piano online. I teach many college students through KeyboardImprov.com and it's a good way to continue improving as a player in a fun way, without interfering with your academic studies.
There are many other things you can do as well, depending on the level of your piano skills and specific areas of musical interest. I know students who play piano and organ at local religious institutions or accompany the school's choir. Others find every opportunity to play at talent shows and informally at their nearby student union.
College is a new and exciting chapter in any person's life, and there's no reason that piano has to end at that time. With a little focus and planning ahead, you CAN "have your piano and play it" too!
If you (or someone you know) want to stay with piano during your college years, you can find some lessons here to keep you going. Have fun!
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