Photo Courtesy of Don Goodwin
In the world of COVID learning, obstacles have been plenty while breaks seem to be few and far between. Especially for Eastern Washington University, where students have now gone a full year without regular in-person classes, one often feels like they’re missing out on many opportunities. Many teachers recognize this, including Dr. Jody Graves.
Graves is an essential part of Eastern’s music program and teaches the performance classes. This, however, has been especially rough ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started due to indoor concerts being prohibited. In order to combat these restrictions and still ensure a great learning experience for her students, Graves has teamed up with Spokane’s local radio station, KPBX, and created the Piano Bench. She decided to help create this event in order to provide students with the opportunity to perform live once again.
“The point is the experience,” said Graves. “We try to give our students as many experiences like this in the real world as we possibly can.”
Occurring on the second Tuesday of every month from now until May, the Piano Bench showcases a wide variety of ensemble music, from Baroque to contemporary. Students work together to bring both solo and group pieces in a professional setting while staying safe from COVID-19.
The program has aired once already this quarter and according to Graves it’s been a great success so far.
“You have these students and their family, their mom, dad, and grandparents who can’t hear and see them play,” recalled Graves. “Then they get to hear this on the radio which has been a real joy.” Students even receive interviews between songs, giving them a voice for their experiences, aspirations and artistic intention.
Graves also stressed the desire for more students to get involved in the music program here at Eastern.
“We’re not just a separate department here,” commented Graves. “Everyone’s welcome to come and participate. You don’t have to be a music major to be involved or even participate in our ensembles.”
Often students can feel separated from others by their majors and main departments, but Graves said, students are welcomed to participate everywhere on campus.
For those who are interested in tuning in, Piano Bench will be airing March 9, April 13, and May 11 on KPBX 91.1 FM at 11 a.m. For those without a radio, the performances will be available in podcast format on KPBX’s website under their program ‘From The Studio’ here: https://www.spokanepublicradio.org/programs/studio#stream/0.