There are no Slytherins or Hufflepuffs at Cindy Wilkinson’s school of music, but in a nod to Harry Potter, she divides her students into houses named after famous composers.
“Students earn points for their houses in numerous ways: weekly practice, completion of music theory, memorizing pieces, attending and or participating in musical performances, attending group lessons,” said the Augusta piano teacher, who learned last month that she’s being inducted into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame.
Throughout the year, students can check their progress to see which house is in the lead. The winning team receives trophies at the annual spring recital and there’s a house cup.
“The students really enjoy this,” she said.
Wilkinson has been teaching piano for more than 30 years in the area and uses the contest to create excitement among her students.
Wilkinson’s love of the piano started in her childhood. She began taking lesson when she was 7 and can play anything with a keyboard – except an accordion, she said.
As a teenager, she attended a Pittsburgh, Pa. high school with a lot of music classes.
“I had four semesters of music theory in high school,” she said. “I was very, very fortunate.”
It was there that she knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. After graduating from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., she settled in the Augusta area and followed that passion for music and teaching.
Much of her work has been in area churches. She’s currently a volunteer at Mosaic Church, but she often substitutes at local churches including Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.
She’s also active in the arts community and has worked with groups such as the Augusta Players, Musical Theatre Workshops, Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre and the Augusta Symphony.
She composed music for some of Storyland Theatre’s production. Composing is something she enjoys but doesn’t spend enough time doing.
Music brings her joy, she said.
“It allows me to express myself. I go in a lot and play for my own enjoyment.
It’s a never-ending journey. It’s a never-ending challenge,” she said.
And she endeavors to pass on her love of music to her students.
Each year, she has between 20 and 25 students. This year, they ranged in age from 6 to 60 years old. Some might take for a year or two while others have been sparked into a lifelong journey.
This isn’t the first Steinway & Sons honor Wilkinson has received. She was named a Steinway & Sons top teacher in 2021. Lisa Maddox at Turner’s Keyboards nominated her for the hall of fame award
Wilkinson recently purchased a Steinway piano that belonged to Ernestine Law, who served as an associate professor of journalism at the University of South Carolina Aiken. She loved the piano, and after retiring, she wanted to teach it, said Wilkinson.
Law had cancer and taught piano as long as she could. She didn’t stop until a few days before she was admitted to the hospital the last time. She died in 1999; her husband, Donald, died in 2017.
Wilkinson said she feels like she’s carrying on a legacy when she’s at that piano and allowing Law’s memory and love of music to live on.
Wilkinson will travel to New York City in October for her honor.
“I was stunned,” she said of hearing about the induction. “I know the people who teach in the area. I’m just stunned.”
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at email@example.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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