Jessica Ackendorf ’19 plays the piano as instructor Sean Gough watches.11 a.m.

A fast jazz riff tinkles from a practice room on the second floor of Williams Center for the Arts.

Inside, Jessica Ackendorf ’19 sits at an upright piano and works out the melody and bass line for a Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie song called “Anthropology.”

“It’s good,” says her instructor, Sean Gough. “It’s supposed to be …” and he hums a few bars of what she just played, only faster.

A moment before they’d talked about why Ackendorf doesn’t take her piano lessons for credit. She isn’t a music major—rather, Ackendorf is earning a degree in biochemistry. Still, she had the option to pick up her piano lessons for a credit, but decided not to.

“I decided not to for my own personal sanity,” she explains. “If you take it for credit you have a performance [jury] at the end of the semester. I do it for fun on the side.”

“But she doesn’t take that as an excuse not to practice,” Gough says. Ackendorf is diligent and works hard at learning the instrument she’s been studying for only a year. “She really could take it for credit.”

She began taking lessons last year in Spain during a study-abroad trip, “just for something fun,” she says. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”

In high school, she played the flute. During her first year, she joined the concert band, but two days later decided it wasn’t for her—she wanted to indulge other interests. But walking through the hallways at Williams and listening to music drifting from the rooms …

“I get really jealous,” she says, laughing. “I hear people making really great piano music, and it makes me sad that I cannot do the same.”

Piano, she’s decided, is superior to flute.

“I think piano is the fundamental instrument of all music,” she says. “You cannot play more than one note at a time on flute. Well, some talented people can.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Humanities, Music, News and Features

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