Sophomore keyboard pedagogy major Deborah Longenecker grew up in Kuwait, which she said gave her a wide variety of opportunities to experience the complexity and diversity that makes up the world of music.
Diversity of rhythms
Although Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the Middle East, according to Longenecker, it has a vast spectrum of musical opportunities. Longenecker’s home city had a cultural center that put on a variety of concerts and performances that exposed her to a diversity of music.
“I had piano teachers from Russia, Serbia, America and England,” Longenecker said. “So I was exposed to a variety of teaching styles.”
Longenecker said each one of her teachers emphasized a different aspect of music, which provided her with a richer love for and understanding of the music she was playing. Longenecker said having a variety of teaching methods showed her about the different countries and what they valued most in music.
While studying under her Russian teacher, Longenecker’s focus was mainly on precision of notes and being technically proficient. However, her Serbian teacher developed Longenecker’s expressiveness. Her American teacher encouraged Longenecker to expand her musical repertoire beyond the traditional music of the piano.
“My British teacher, Mrs. Bushman, put all of these together and taught me how to make it musical,” Longenecker said. “Not just the notes but what the composer really intended in the piece.”
Becoming a musician
Longenecker said Bushman was probably the most influential in forming the musician she is today. It was Bushman’s outgoing personality that really encouraged Longenecker to express herself through the music.
“She always told me, ‘Deborah, feel the music,’” Longenecker said. “She told me what the dynamics should be and then gave me the tools to do it.”
Other than her lessons, Longenecker didn’t have much exposure to the more traditional styles of music. However, she said she never felt that she was lacking musical exposure.
“I didn’t have a library to expose me to much classical music, but I had CDs,” Longenecker said. “These were the only CDs I had, so I would listen to them over and over again. Those particular pieces then became ingrained in my brain, and I was able to play those few pieces very well.”
The CDs and her parents’ passion for music and the arts encouraged Longenecker to pursue music, she said.
Longenecker said from the very beginning her mom played a huge role in her development as a musician. Her mom would attend every lesson and took notes of what Longenecker needed to work on for the next class.
“I honestly don’t think I would have necessarily continued in music if it hadn’t been for my mom,” Longenecker said.
As Longenecker continued in her lessons, it became more of a challenge to balance it with her other studies as a student, she said.
“It became like a school subject for me,” Longenecker said. “It just became all about the exams, and I didn’t want to practice anymore.”
Longenecker said it was the wise advice of her mother that solidified her passion for music.
“She said to me, ‘Deborah, it is not fun for you anymore, and I think you need to stop lessons until you really know you want to continue,’” Longenecker said.
So Longenecker took a two-year break from private lessons. She didn’t play the piano at all during that time. During that period she really had a chance to reflect on her motivations for investing so much of her time in the piano, Longenecker said.
As a result, she discovered she wanted to pursue piano as a career and share her passion and love for music with others.
“Growing up in such a musically rich environment with parents who really encouraged it gave me such a gift,” Longenecker said. “I really would love to pass on that to my students. I want them to realize the beauty of music.”
Sophomore Maria Confer said she believes Longenecker will be successful in her dream of teaching higher-level pianists.
“She is very perspective of people and their feelings,” Confer said. “I think she will understand her students quickly and be able to adapt to their learning styles.”
Sophomore Jana Minich said Longenecker really wants to use music to serve others. Longenecker said she has considered following in her parents’ footsteps and going overseas.
But Longenecker said her love for music ultimately ties back to Kuwait.
“I’m really thankful to God that he allowed me to grow up in Kuwait,” Longenecker said. “It is such a different place, and I feel like through that he was preparing me for what he wanted me to do. In every experience I had I can see God’s hand in it.”
Emily Day is a junior journalism major and arts & entertainment editor for Cedars. She is an avid reader, runner and is a general Disney enthusiast.