Starkville High School officially cut the ribbon on its state of the art piano lab on Tuesday with the premier performance of the SHS Piano Ensemble.
The piano lab at SHS features 16 full-sized keyboards along with a headset for each keyboard that allows the teacher to connect and instruct students individually or as a group. The collaborative learning experience allows students to receive instant feedback from their teacher to learn up to 60% faster than through a traditional lesson.
SHS music teacher Trent Smith provides instruction to about 40 students during four classes. While several of his students knew how to read music, most of them did not have any piano experience.
"This is my dream job," said Smith as he introduced his piano students during their first performance. Smith previously taught a piano lab while he pursued his graduate degree from Samford University.
Jennifer Davis, Director of Choral Music, echoed Mr. Smith's enthusiasm for the project.
"The ability to read piano music and play piano music is foundational for students who choose to pursue music as a vocation or avocation. It's also essential to our continued growth and success as an excellent music program," said Davis.
The lab at SHS cost approximately $18,000 and was purchased with a combination of funds from SHS and the SHS choral music program. Travel funds for the choral music program were reallocated for equipment after the choir was unable to travel due to Covid-19.
The lab is the second to officially open in the Starkville Oktibbeha School District for the 2021-2022 school year. A $10,000 donation from the Starkville MSU Symphony Association funded a piano lab at Partnership Middle School. The piano lab includes 15 keyboards to facilitate small group instruction for up to 30 students.
"We are extremely grateful for a school district and greater school community that financially support and invest in the arts to create excellent opportunities for music instruction for our students," said Davis.
A third, smaller piano lab has already been implemented as part of the general music class at Armstrong Jr. High.
The piano labs close a gap in music education and create equity in music education.
"Students who are considering a future career in music education must demonstrate proficiency in piano," said Davis. "The cost of private piano lessons and a piano can be cost prohibitive for some students. The piano lab at SHS offers a very strong foundation for success at the collegiate level.
"The creation of piano labs at each of our secondary schools directly reflects our school district's commitment to expand student opportunities in the arts and to enhance resources within arts courses," said Supt. Eddie Peasant. "I share our community's passion for arts in education, and I am incredibly excited about the opportunity these piano labs offer our students to pursue their passion, purpose and potential through music education."