By: Audrey Jenkins – Staff Writer
For many Centre students, listening to music is a daily activity, seemingly as necessary as breathing or eating. And for a dedicated faction of Centre students, listening to music is simply not enough — they have also chosen to devote a portion of their daily lives to making the music.
Senior Luke Wetton has taken three varieties of music lessons in his time at Centre: piano, drums, and banjo. Although his primary instrument is piano, he has taken advantage of the opportunities at Centre and explored other interests as well. “Why the banjo? Well, I didn’t know how to play a stringed instrument before college,” Wetton said. “I chose the banjo because it’s a Kentucky instrument and I know I wouldn’t have a chance to learn it later in life.”
Wetton has a deep respect for his banjo instructor, Dr. Tim Lake. “My current instructor, Dr. Lake, is a very tough, demanding instructor,” he said. “He has his doctorate in banjo, gives lessons at Transy and Centre, and goes on world tours for the banjo. He’s tough … [but] he’s helped me learn a lot quicker than I ever expected.”
Wetton explained that though each of his music lesson experiences has been incredible, he has particularly enjoyed the banjo both because of Lake and because the instrument itself has captured his attention. Although the weekly practice time is a time commitment that may be daunting to busy Centre students, finding time to practice is not difficult when you are truly enjoying yourself.
“My practice time varies from week to week. I’ll put in anywhere from four to ten hours, ten hours if I’m really into whatever song I’m playing for that week,” Wetton said. “You just have to take a little time out of every day to practice, but it’s not difficult if you are musically minded and if you enjoy it.”
When asked if he had plans to continue playing his banjo after college, Wetton did not hesitate to answer with an enthusiastic yes. “After graduation I’m moving to Asia and entering into business with my dad. In China in particular I’ve noticed a fascination with Southern American culture, so in addition to sharing other Kentucky pleasures with them, I plan on buying a travel banjo and playing it on the road,” he said. “I think it’s a really neat cultural exchange, a bourbon and banjos type of thing.”
Senior Lydia Kincaid is also a budding banjoist as well as a vocalist here at Centre. “I’ve been in choir since age nine and have taken voice lessons all four years here at Centre, but I also decided to try the banjo this year,” she said.
She explained that as a Dramatic Arts major, being able to both sing and play an instrument will be incredibly useful in her career. Like Wetton, Kincaid has nothing but praise for her instructors. “The people they get to teach [music lessons] here at Centre are great,” she said. “They aren’t just random undergraduate music students. They have doctorates and are very professional and talented musicians.”
Happily, Kincaid reports satisfaction with both her vocal and banjo experiences as a whole. “My voice technique has definitely improved at Centre. I’ve learned more about placement and anatomy,” she said. “I decided to take banjo because I realized that at any other point in my life, I’d have to drive somewhere and find an instructor. But if I learn here, I can just sign up and show up.”
Though Kincaid acknowledged the time commitment involved with music lessons, she does not feel burdened by it. “If you don’t make time in your schedule, you won’t practice, and it will be scary to go to your lessons. But if you get into the habit of practicing, you’ll probably start to enjoy it,” she said. “I practice around 30 minutes a day for each of my lessons and it’s really not that bad.” Like Wetton, she also expressed a keen desire for continuing both her vocal and banjo careers long into the future.
While Centre music students have nothing but praise for their instructors, their instructors report equal respect and enthusiasm for their students. Professor Elizabeth Wolfe has been teaching piano lessons at Centre for twenty years and has loved every minute. “Our students are bright, gifted, and perceptive, and enjoy a good challenge,” she said. “We are invigorated by one another as we revel in the delights of music-making and the pursuit of beauty.”
Wolfe is positively ecstatic as she describes both her students and the joy she finds in instructing them. As a former student of some of the best pianists in the country, Wolfe feels that it is her duty and life’s passion to also train other pianists for greatness. “When one has been given such a deep legacy of artistry from fine mentors, the acceptance of this gift necessitates passing it on to students of all ages,” she said. “This has been a constant joy to me over the years.”
Though she has been teaching at Centre for over twenty years, Wolfe’s passion for music and her students has never been stronger. “Piano music offers such a wide range of repertoire; exploration of this instrument is endless … Playing the piano is a lifetime journey, of which one never tires, and never reaches the end of the musical offerings,” she said.
If you’ve ever even had an inkling of an urge to try music lessons of any sort, go for it! The opportunities for a “lifetime journey” of music are right under your nose and at your fingertips.