“I call it the Pickens Portable Piano Pickup,” said Kenwood Academy music teacher Bethany Pickens as she waited for her students to arrive at the school on Friday to pick up one of the 153 loaner keyboards stacked in the hallway.
The keyboards were purchased with nearly $31,000 in funds donated by a couple, “who wish to remain anonymous,” said Pickens.
“I made a post on Facebook asking for donations for my kids who are taking piano lessons from me,” said Pickens.
“Nine hours later I received a Facebook (message) saying, ‘I think I might be able to help you out.’
“They asked me how many keyboards I needed and how much I was willing to spend? And then they sent a check for $30,600.00.
“Not everybody has access to a keyboard,” added Pickens. “Now, all 153 of my beginning students will have access to a keyboard.”
In a statement provided to Pickens, the donor wrote, ”I am a former resident of Hyde Park, a proud graduate of Kenwood and my wife is a retired special education teacher and a choir director. She has personally experienced what the gift of music can do for young people.
“In November, I saw Bethany's request on Facebook for 150 pianos for her music students. As soon as I shared her request with my wife, we immediately agreed we wanted to support Kenwood, Bethany and the great work she is doing. Kenwood has a long, rich, music history and these students should be given every opportunity.
“We wanted to keep our gift anonymous, as it is not about us. It is all about the hardworking students at Kenwood, the magic Bethany Pickens and the entire Kenwood Music department does as they lay the foundation for these students and their futures."
Paul Giron and his son Oliver, a seventh grader in Pickens’ Beginning Piano class, arrived at the school to pick up a keyboard just after noon.
“We were looking to buy one,” said Giron, “but obviously we prefer, you know, to not to have to spend the money right now.”
“It seemed like a waste, him learning to read music and not being able to put his hands on the keys,” Giron continued.
“Yeah, I’ve tried (playing the piano) before,” said Oliver.
“My friends, they had a piano I tried, I wasn’t good at it cause I didn’t have instruction. They were just like, ‘You place your finger here, and then you put it here.’ I don’t know.”
Since the class started, Oliver has learned a lot of music theory, and is now reading sheet music.
Oliver, who doesn’t have a particular preference for a genre of music, but likes music “as long as it sounds good,” said that when he gets home, he is “going to try and play it. Try and read the music they gave us.”
As each of her students arrived to pick up a keyboard, Pickens entered the serial number of the keyboard into a database and handed the student a folder containing instructions for positioning one’s hands on the keyboard, along with some some sheet music. Then she gave them a big box holding the keyboard.
She reflected on what the first semester of being a student in her class must have felt like. “It’s like you are on a basketball team and you don’t get to touch the ball,” she said.
Donations to help support programs such as Pickens’ at Kenwood Academy can be made through the Friends of Kenwood Academy Donorbox account at donorbox.org/general-donations-22.
Correction: The piano pickup took place on Friday, not Saturday. The Herald regrets the error.