Dana faculty member makes music on the West Side

Dana-Chaney partnership

Cicilia Yudha, a faculty member in the Dana School of Music, works with students at Chaney High School on Youngstown’s West Side.

Fourteen tired pianos, seven keen pupils, two hours a week, and one faculty member from YSU’s Dana School of Music willing to share her time and knowledge.

Maybe the numbers don’t yet show the impact of Cicilia Yudha’s efforts, but after all this is music, not math. The smiles are all around as they plunk out Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

For students in the Visual and Performing Arts program at Chaney High School on Youngstown’s West Side, Yudha’s voluntary after-school piano class is designed to ready them for a college career.

Yudha moved to Cleveland from Indonesia 16 years ago to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Artist Program and joined the Dana faculty in August as an assistant professor of Keyboard Musicianship. “I had a conversation with Dean (Bryan) DePoy, (of the College of Fine and Performing Arts) and I had asked him how I could be more involved in the community,” she said. “Although teaching privately is a good way to get to know the community, it is not efficient in making a significant contribution within a short period of time. He suggested Chaney, because Chaney and the Dana School of Music have been trying to collaborate.”

While there are many local schools that would benefit from Yudha’s expertise, Chaney had two advantages: An existing piano lab, and a program leader willing to begin immediately.  Tracy Schuler Vivo, VPA coordinator at Chaney and a YSU alumna, is passionate about her work at Chaney and eager to bring practical experience to the students. “We try to get as many guest artists and professionals in as possible,” she said. “We hope to put class piano into the curriculum here, and work closely with the Dana School.”

“This project by Dr. Yudha is an exemplary example of how a faculty member can directly engage the community as a service project,” said DePoy.

Yudha, who earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, has developed a relationship with the Chaney students and the school, and will remain involved even if she doesn’t teach in the class this fall. “I would like to provide a channel for these students to express themselves musically, while preparing them for higher education in music,” she said.

Chaney students choose their direction early on, and are given an intensive pre-professional program to prepare them for a career in the arts. Yudha’s class is basic preparation for keyboard musicianship, level one, at the Dana School. She instructs in playing with both hands, reading bass and treble clef simultaneously, and basic musicianship, with some theory but a primarily hands-on approach. “Most of these students have had a little bit of experience where they would play by ear,” Yudha said, “but most have never taken any piano lessons.”

“Keyboard skills are critical for continued study in music, and this is a terrific opportunity for high school students to be mentored by an expert in classroom piano,” said DePoy.

Story by Harry Evans