Making the Grade
College Faculty Recognized for Excellence
Arlene P. Kies
How much does Arlene Kies love the piano? If her home furnishing choices are any indication, the answer is, a lot—her Durham house holds four pianos: three six-foot grands and an upright. There’s also a digital keyboard, Kies notes, for practicing without disturbing guests.
“It’s hard to walk through any of the rooms and not be tempted to sit down at one of the pianos and play something,” she laughs.
A conservatory-trained concert pianist, Kies is senior lecturer in music at UNH, where, since 1995, she has been teaching music students all the technical aspects of being a pianist: how to play, how to learn music quickly, and how to accompany other instruments and voice. She also teaches her students how to teach—a critical skill, she says, that can make all the difference in their future careers.
Many of Kies’ students hone their teaching skills in a program she refers to as her “baby”: the UNH Piano Extension Program (PEP). Developed by Kies some 17 years ago to bring affordable piano lessons to the greater Durham community, PEP pairs UNH piano students with aspiring pianists for weekly lessons at the Paul Creative Arts Center.
Over the years, Kies estimates she’s taught some 200 UNH students, and reached another 500 or 600 pianists through PEP.
“One of the things I’m proudest of about our piano program here is that we can really meet our students where they are and help them meet the goals they set for themselves,” she says. “It’s quite gratifying to work with a student who maybe has the talent and drive – but not the background – to be a high-level pianist and then to see him or her get there.”
Watch a video portrait of Arlene P. Kies.
Her enthusiasm is not lost on her students. Zach Onett, a recent music composition alum, studied classical piano, piano teaching, and piano accompaniment with Kies just to soak up her energy and spirit.
“She always pressed upon us that we should strive to be the best we can,” Onett says, “because our students, or audience, or fellow musicians deserve nothing less.”
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