Marietta McPike has been teaching piano at Family Matters for 20 years. In that time, she has worked with approximately 75 young people who participate in Youth Development programming. She began playing piano herself at the age of nine. She fondly remembers her own teacher, and how he would later become a friend. An important figure in her life, he taught her piano, harmony, and theory.
In addition to teaching piano, Marietta worked at IBM for 35 years. Still, she always found time for music. The skills that learning piano develops translate across several applications. It is a discipline where one must use the eyes, ears, brain, and muscles in order to progress. It requires the mastery of multiple senses as well as the mind. When asked how it feels, from her perspective as a teacher, when a young piano player demonstrates improvement on a song, she affirms, “The very best it when someone conquers a persistent problem… and suddenly can do it!”
She reflects, too, on how the youth have influenced her and on how they have shaped her thinking on very different perspectives as to expectations. She notes that one can be influenced by one’s surroundings, either to grow or to be stifled. Marietta remarks, “I like to challenge their ideas of what is possible and try to encourage them to reach higher, overcoming limitations.”
Learning piano is one way that youth, families, and Family Matters are contributing to building an equitable society in the North of Howard neighborhood. As Marietta says, “I think exposing the students to successful classical musicians of color, of different nationalities, of different ethnic backgrounds shows them that anyone….absolutely anyone…..can learn an instrument and be a star. I adore showing them Winton Marsalis….Kathleen Battle…because it proves that they too can accomplish their goals.”
Family Matters is deeply grateful for all that Marietta shares with our community—time, talent, and a tenacious belief in Family Matters’ youth. There are currently five Family Matters youth piano players, and we are always seeking portable pianos for them to take home to practice, music books, and accessories to supplement their learning. Or you might consider sharing your own time and talent in another way!