BARBOURVILLE — An assistant music professor at Union College is now offering free introductory piano lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in the area.
Dr. Yukiko Fujimura, a Union College Assistant Professor of Music, began playing the piano at just 3 years old growing up in Kanagawa, Japan, following in the footsteps of her parents who both played an instrument.
Fujimura went on to a junior and senior high school in Japan that specialized in music and eventually came to the United States to study music in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in piano from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, as well as a master’s and a doctorate in piano from Ball State University.
During that time, Fujimura played both nationally and internationally while receiving guidance from many noted musicians from around the world. After receiving her doctorate, Fujimura began working in Chicago, Illinois as a performer and teacher for students of all ages and levels, including teaching students at Joliet Junior College and Concordia University Chicago.
Then, in 2020, she learned of a piano professor job opening up at Union College.
“I knew it was going to be very competitive, so I was surprised and very happy to be selected to join the faculty,” Fujimura said.
Not long after taking the position at Union College, Fujimura said she quickly learned that one thing the college values greatly is serving the community.
“I also learned that there aren’t many musicians who teach lessons in the area,” she said. “So, I thought my way of giving back would be to open our piano studio to the members of the community.
“We have a wonderful choral program here at Union that’s been an integral part of the community. My hope is for our piano program to have a presence like that.”
Fujimura is hoping to begin offering a 4-week introductory piano course to students 6 years and older at the college’s recently added piano lab. She said the courses will be offered for free to any interested students.
“We have access to full-sized Yamaha electric pianos as well as a Steinway grand piano in my office, so a small group of students can learn piano together,” she said. “Normally, colleges have a piano lab to teach fundamental keyboard skills to music majors who aren’t pianists. At Union, I wanted it to create a sense of community where students support and learn from each other. The lab can have activities that are not usually covered in piano lessons, like ensemble, improvising, theory, and composition.”
Fujimura said these community classes will be taught in small groups and hopes to meet weekly for 45 minutes a class. The course will culminate with a final performance class, she added.
As someone who grew up playing piano herself, Fujimura wants to help others have those same opportunities she had growing up.
“I believe every child deserves an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument regardless of their financial status,” Fujimura said. “There are numerous studies about the benefits of music lessons for children’s academic achievements, and physical and emotional health. Learning to play a musical instrument or sing also requires a daily practice habit, problem-solving, and imagination—all the skills that are going to be important to be successful in a variety of jobs.”
Fujimura hopes that this experience will also be a part of a student’s social development.
“Music transmits important values like harmony, solidarity and empathy,” she said. “We play multiple parts that come together to express feelings, and often by playing music from other cultures.”
Those interested in taking part in these free introductory piano courses may contact Fujimura at firstname.lastname@example.org.