UL-Lafayette music professors create online textbook to teach piano _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette Music Professors Susanna Garcia, left, and Chan Kiat Lim have created an online textbook used to teach students piano.

Two music professors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have helped bring traditional piano instruction into the 21st century with their online textbook that’s changing the way musicians are taught.

The brainchild of Susanna Garcia and Chan Kiat Lim, eNovative Piano is used by about 40 schools across the U.S., including colleges, high schools and middle schools.

Lim and Garcia created all the lessons from scratch and launched the website in 2009.

After purchasing a key, logging into the website will give fledging music students access to about 400 lessons on pieces by many composers including Beethoven, John Henry Hopkins and Garcia and Lim themselves.

“One of my students said it’s like having a teacher in your pocket,” Lim said. “You can take it wherever you go.”

The website features lessons and videos on basics like learning how to distinguish different piano keys by ear and understanding rhythm as well as hundreds of pieces of written music accompanied by videos — all performed by Lim — detailing finger movements.

“Movement is so important in piano playing,” Lim said. “Just by displaying that in this way really allows our students to learn.”

Garcia agreed.

“I’ll often do this in class: I’ll stop the video and I’ll say, ‘Look at the position of his thumb. You need to have your thumb at a 45-degree angle to the key,’ or ‘Look at how flexible his wrists are,’ ” she said. “I can show them things in the class that without this, they wouldn’t see.”

Lim said he is a classical pianist and his one-on-one training was integral to his mastery of the piano.

“With a physical textbook, you lose that element,” he said.

Garcia said not only does the website help students during instruction time, but it also can be used outside the classroom. You can even access the website on a smartphone or tablet.

“This really gives them the opportunity to go back and learn whenever they’re ready to learn,” Garcia said.

All students in the College of Music are required to take the first three piano courses at UL-Lafayette before moving into their concentration along with their music theory classes in lock-step. The eNovative Piano is employed in these piano classes.

Although the piano isn’t the instrument of choice for a lot of these students, it’s paramount in understanding music as a whole, Lim said.

“Music is a life subject,” he said. “It involves not just reading and understanding concepts; you have to hear it. You have to watch someone do it.”

Garcia has been teaching piano for more than 40 years as an independent piano teacher as well as a college professor.

A native of Malaysia, Lim received his training at the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College of Music in London.

Students pay $30 for a semester of access to the online textbook or $20 per quarter. Individuals can subscribe for $10 a month. The pricing schedule and other information can be found at enovativepiano.com.