“Music saved my mother’s life,” Judy Neville, Gratz Opus 118 Music & Dance founder said.
Adeline Erwin, Judy’s mother, was an African American school girl in the 1930’s. She felt like she didn’t belong. In those days, elementary schools were segregated, but high school was not. Adeline felt awkward walking the halls of her Topeka Kansas, the capital of the state, which in 1954 would become world renowned for the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. This is the Supreme Court case that officially ended segregation of schools in the U.S high school. She was taller than her peers and the target of racism from students and teachers. But her choir teacher saw beyond Adeline’s appearance. She saw the gift of music beaming from Adeline’s spirit.
“Music made my mother unique,” Judy said. “It gave her a different outlook on life.”
However, it would take tremendous courage for Adeline to share this gift with others. She got her chance at a school assembly in the gymnasium. Of course, it would have been easier to hide behind the bleachers. But that’s not Adeline. With encouragement of her choir teacher, Adeline preformed a complicated piano piece called Prelude in C# Minor, Op. 2, No. 3 by Sergei Rachmaninoff in front of the entire school. There was a collective shock followed by a roaring applause.
Afterwards, things changed.
The same white classmates that would gawk at Adeline started talking to her about music. Students asked how she accomplished the trickiest part of the piece. Adeline saw that the magic of music transcended race and class. Music was something she pursued from that moment until she turned 100 years old.
It wasn’t an easy beginning. At 9 years old, Adeline was fortunate to receive piano lessons, even though her family was poor. In fact, her father was a janitor and would take sheet music that was thrown away. In an era where there weren’t many opportunities for African American women, music gave Adeline wings. When Adeline graduated high school, she enrolled in Washburn University and graduated with a degree in Music Education.
“Music gave her an opportunity to get out of town,” Judy said.
Adeline taught music all over the country. In 1947, she married Rev. J Otis Erwin and welcomed 3 daughters into the world. Judy grew up in a home filled with music. One of Judy’s favorite days of the month was when a record from Columbia Record Club would arrive. She remembers listening to the classical record and seeing the love of the music in her mother’s eyes. Some of her fondest childhood memories was sharing music with her mother and watching her play complicated pieces.
“My mother gave me piano lessons and said that I was her best student,” Judy said.
Adeline celebrated her 100th birthday on July 3rd and played piano as long as she could. Adeline passed away one month later in August. She may be gone from this earth, but her legacy lives on through Judy and her sisters. The gift of music that Adeline gave to Judy is joyfully shared with Judy’s students at Gratz Opus 118 Music & Dance. She guides her students find the music within. She has students of all ages and backgrounds, proving once more that music connects us all.
“Music is a lifelong pursuit,” Judy said.
For Judy, her mother’s story inspires Judy to vocalize the value of music and that is okay to be different. Judy enjoys working with her students and seeing what they can create and encouraging them to cherish their artistic gifts.
“I encourage my students because my mother encouraged me,” Judy said. “That will always part of my teaching.”
Music is important in a child’s development. It is so important that some parents even expose music to their babies in utero. But why? What is it about music that is so important to a child’s life?
Music inspires creativity within a child. When a child listens to music, they dance and sing. In fact, Infants as young as 5 months naturally dance to the beat of a song. In addition, a sense of pride develops when a child makes up their own song. For instance, a child can express their creativity through piano lessons and proudly share it with their parents and teachers.
Music helps a child’s brain form important connections. These connections involve the right and left side of the brain and motor and cognitive development. To say that music makes children smarter is correct. The science proves it!
Childhood is wonderful, but can be hard. Children who are exposed to music from a young age can use it as an emotional outlet. Through music, children can express their feelings in a positive way. Also, music can be used as a tool to calm an overactive or upset child.
Gratz Opus 118 is the region’s music and dance center. We offer private lessons in guitar, piano, and voice. Every month, students can show off their skills at the recital. For more information, call (219) 462-4573
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For many generations, women’s progress meant incremental access to token roles of influence and power. From business owners to doctors, managers to entrepreneurs, key leadership positions were reserved for the few and exceptional. Progress in the 21st century means that seeing a “Ms.” in a leader’s title no longer causes a pause or a second glance. Valparaiso’s women influencers and innovators prove that leadership is a gifting that transcends gender.
Judith Neville, who, along with her husband, David, owns Gratz Opus 118, stresses that it’s important for women leaders to have confidence in their abilities and vision as there are those who still have trouble perceiving women as equipped to lead. “People will try to put you in the category where they want you and, as a woman, that can make you second guess yourself. But, if you’re made to do something you’re made to use that gifting.” For Neville and her husband, helping people recognize, embrace, and use their unique gifts is the mission of their ministry, Neville Ministries Incorporated, a mission which is at the foundation of Gratz Opus 118, too. “I’ve always wanted to go into business and to own a music studio, to have a place where people can be the best they can be and express their giftings.” She says the music store fits perfectly into David’s and her mission, and that the retail end of the store was a sweet part of the deal.
So many choices! “Learn piano in 21 days!” “Watch my videos and learn to play like a pro in just 3 sessions!”
It doesn’t matter whether you or your child want to one day play “Moonlight” Sonata (the original) or gather around the piano with family at holiday time and be able to play the songs you love to sing. The journey of learning to play an instrument is best traveled with guide who knows where you want to go and how to get there. There are a lot of teachers–professionally trained and otherwise–who are available to be that guide. But, who’s the best for you, or your child? Please click on the link below and read an article by Heidi Smith, product marketing manager for Alfred Music. Although her first audience is music teachers themselves, her checklist of what to look for in a great music instructor–instrument or voice is so very valuable. In a world where everyone seems to be looking for the quickest route there in the least amount of time, the precious gift of music-making is not to be rushed. It’s a journey to be enjoyed with all kinds of delightful surprises and achievements along the way. Opus 118 moments (see my very 1st blog)! We have teachers here at Gratz Opus 118 who are ready to travel along. We’re as excited about the journey and results as the students are!
Gratz Opus 118 is pleased to announce that we are adding drums/percussion and some other instruments to our instruction! This new instruction comes by way of our newest instructor, Nicholas DeHenes! Here’s a little more about Nicholas:
Nicholas DeHenes is a 3rd year music education major at Valparaiso University. He grew up in Chesterton, IN, and studied music with Vince Arizzi and Michael Scheiber while attending junior and senior high school. Upon graduation from high school, Nicholas attended VanderCook College of Music for 2 years. He is now a student at VU. Nicholas has been playing and studying the percussive arts for 6 years, as well as other instruments such as piano, guitar and clarinet. Upon graduation from VU, Nicholas intends to become a middle school band director, eventually planning to become a music theory professor.
Nicholas’s musical gifts are evident, and we welcome him to the Gratz Opus 118 family! Call us now to schedule lessons with this exceptional musician and teacher! (219) 462-4573