An Interview with Olivia Hancock

Olivia Hancock

You may know recent alum Olivia Hancock behind a piano playing preludes for chapel or in the fall and spring showcases. Prior to her graduating from Bryan last year she placed second in the Piano Magazine Collegiate Writing Competition.

You can find her article online at in September 2020 as part of the Autumn 2020 online supplement to the Piano Magazine.

1. How did this opportunity come about?

Dr. Ellis actually presented this opportunity to me in the 2nd semester of Piano Literature class. I took this class as a tutorial, so my submission of this article was considered a portion of my class work. I did not know about the Piano Magazine Collegiate Writing Competition previously, so this was a completely new experience!

2. What inspired you to write this article? (Maybe share a short piece of what you wrote in your article)

In searching for topics for my article, I found that I was greatly inspired by my personal experiences with improvisation in piano lessons. In my younger years, I was never taught through improvisation, but beginning in high school, my piano lessons consisted of not only learning new music from my books, but creating music of my own, as well. This new process opened up a world of creativity that I had never experienced before. Perhaps the greatest breakthrough I had here was that of personally connecting with my music on a much deeper level. This began my journey of exploring improvisation in teaching my own piano lessons.

Additionally, I became very interested in studying the connection between musical improvisation and brain function. I explored a few key studies on this topic which are shared in detail in my article. I learned that using improvisation in music lessons can not only help students connect with their music on a deeper level, but also positively affect memory, planning, motivation, attention, cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning, and fine motor movement. The benefits do not stop here; many more are shared within my article. This research inspired me to begin using improvisation regularly in my own teaching method, and the results I have seen from my students are extraordinary. I decided to write my article on this topic because I love sharing inspiration and helpful teaching tips with others, especially on topics that I am deeply passionate about — like this one!

3. What was that moment like for you when you heard the news that your article was getting published in Clavier Companion magazine? When did you find this news out?

I received the congratulatory email on June 16th around 6:30 pm, and definitely did not expect this news! I read through it a few times over again to make sure that I was seeing it correctly, then immediately reached out to Dr. Ellis to share my excitement. I was so surprised and simply happy; if anyone had seen me beaming down at my phone screen at that moment, they probably would have counted me as crazy! I am absolutely honored to have my article featured in the Piano Magazine and am so grateful for that opportunity!

4. When and where should we expect to see your article?

My article will be published online at in September 2020 as part of the Autumn 2020 online supplement to the Piano Magazine.

5. What did you enjoy most during the development of this article?

During the development of my article, I thoroughly enjoyed the research process. Learning new information about a topic that I am so passionate about was really exciting, and I’m so grateful to have an outlet to share my findings with others!

A Special note from Dr. Ellis, Associate Professor of Music at Bryan:

“At Bryan, I love working with music students who are excited to learn and grow as performers, teachers, and difference makers! Olivia has been one of those students! I am proud of her and all of her accomplishments. She was a hard-working student in her time at Bryan, and it was a joy to be her teacher.”