Piano professor promotes students above self

Assistant professor Hilary Demske is somewhat of a celebrity in the piano world, but talking to her you’d have no idea.

An international performer, Demske has played the piano since she was 3 years old, has played in front of crowds all over the world and most recently has earned the prestigious honor of being named a Steinway Artist.

Yet if you talk to her, the pride she has in her students far outweighs any personal pride she may have. Demske is the advisor of the UVU Contrapuntalists Club, part of the Music Teachers National Association. The club, which is comprised of UVU’s 11 piano majors, is for students who plan on teaching piano professionally. It is open to everyone who has the goal of being a piano teacher, but some piano proficiency is required.

Members of the Contrapuntalists Club are already making strides in their goals to become teachers. This semester, they decided that they were going to teach a community class called “Discovering Your Piano Potential,” so they organized it and began. The class went for nine weeks, was open to anyone in the community and consisted of some as young as 11 years old to more mature adult students.

On Nov. 9, the community class held a recital to show off their newly acquired skills to friends and family.

The class is available every semester to anyone who wants to learn. Some piano experience is suggested, but not necessary. Demske does help teach, but insists that students do most of the instructing, which includes a one hour group session and a 30 minute individual session a week, themselves.

“We have a lot of talented piano majors,” she said, “and [they] are doing a lot of great things.” She feels that teaching the class is exactly what the club needs to hone their teaching skills, adding, “It’s such a valuable experience for students to teach in a safe environment.”

The club also gets teaching experience by speaking in front of groups. Over the course of this semester, they held three different pre-concert lectures before music department recitals that were open to anyone who was interested. The lectures included free pizza and had members of the club informing the public about the musical pieces about to be played that night.

Demske said this is a perfect example of President Holland’s mission of engaged learning. Not only did members have to study and learn about the pieces, they also had to prepare and give professional lectures. This is especially unique, considering the Contrapuntalists Club is comprised of mostly sophomores and freshmen.

Demske herself was never a member of any club like this while in school, having attended mostly conservatories in her studies, but said that it would have been a great experience if she had. She decided as a high school senior to major in piano, but didn’t seriously consider collegiate teaching until her second year of graduate school. Until then, she just wanted to progress in her piano performing, which obviously worked for her, considering where she is now.

This summer, Demske was named a Steinway Artist, a credit that only about 1,600 people in the world can claim to have. Prominent jazz musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall are also Steinway Artists.

When asked about this recognition, Demske became a little bit flustered and said, “It’s such an honor … a recognition I never thought I’d get.”

She has a helpful piece of advice to the UVU student body: “Being successful in music, and life, takes a combination of passion and perseverance. You have to keep going and the rewards will take care of themselves.”