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BMS students study piano

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Walk into Brewton Middle School's new piano lab and you won't hear musical notes erupting from Yamaha pianos. Rather, you will see a group of children wearing headsets, reading sheet music and punching the keys and listening to comments from Greg Blackman.
Blackman has taught at the middle school for 11 years and graduated from the University of West Florida with a music degree. During college he pursued an internship at Pace High School where it had a keyboard lab. So, when the City Board of Education gladly supported the new program, Blackman jumped at the opportunity, and called the course a &#8220godsend to me.”
The piano lab was first offered to fifth and sixth grade fine arts students in late-October.
Since then, the children have been working on reading music and playing music from the John W. Schaum method book. The method books range from Pre-A through F. Students are still learning in the Pre-A books and most likely won't reach a very high level since the students will be switching over to another fine art after the semester is over.
However, once the class becomes established and more children become involved and Blackman has the opportunity to work with repeat students, &#8220over the years they may reach (level F),” he said.
The concept of piano lab is quite simple.
The students play at Yamaha keyboards located in the choir room at the middle school. Each keyboard is numbered and hooked up to the main console, or hub, which was installed by Dollar Hide Music based out of Pensacola.
Blackman and the students wear headphones. At his hub, Blackman can punch in a number and listen to students perform, and the students can raise their hands to communicate and Blackman will punch a number corresponding with the student and discuss something with them.
He can also join a couple of the students together and they can either perform a duet together or several students can perform together. The console can hold up to 48 keyboards, and Blackman hopes that one day the students will get to a point where they can perform in &#8220mini” recitals inside the lab.
The students, Blackman said, all work at different levels. He will be taking them from a beginner to a more polished pianist.
The piano classes are taught five days a week so practice at home is not necessary. What's even greater about the piano class, Blackman said, is that the lab allows students who are not able to afford lessons to now have the opportunity to play.
The classes are also great because &#8220No matter where they go kids can use these skills to further themselves.”
His largest class is made up of 19 students and, according to Blackman, they have really enjoyed playing the piano.