Making Music in the Watson Piano Lab

March 28, 2019

The Fine Arts department recently celebrated the opening of the Margaret A. Watson Piano Lab, made possible by a generous donation from Charles and Elizabeth Baker.

The donation allowed for a significant remodel of the room previously used as an office and group piano space; the lab now utilizes the entire space, with additional student stations, storage cabinets, window treatment, and a magnetic whiteboard with built-in music staves. The walls were given a fresh coat of paint and an additional wall was constructed to create a small alcove for a single piano. The lab also saw significant upgrades in technology, with a touch screen and smart-pen enabled television to allow the instructor to perform music analysis in real time for a classroom.

The most significant addition to the lab are fourteen new pianos; twelve digital, one Clavinova 705 for the instructor, and a hybrid piano (the action of a real piano without the strings). These new pianos come with recording capabilities and will allow students to create layers and accompaniment tracks, as well integrate with the smart TV. Both the student and teacher keyboards are connected via the Yamaha LC4 system, which will allow an instructor to hear one or more students through a headset without playing aloud. The addition of a Wi-Fi adapter allows the instructor to access these options via iPad from any point in the room as they move from student to student.

All music degrees are required to take keyboard proficiency courses, which makes the lab a tremendous asset for music majors. Piano majors will use it for piano ensemble practice and for their piano pedagogy practicum course, and the lab will be open for all music students to practice, work on homework, rehearse, or receive tutoring. Dr. Olivia Ellis, Assistant Professor of Music, says that “the newly renovated Margaret A. Watson Piano Lab gives music students access to some of the best technology and digital pianos on the market today, and allows the music faculty to improve and expand our curriculum.”

Chuck Baker, Vice-President of Advancement, is the son of Charles and Elizabeth and nephew of Ms. Watson. Reflecting on his aunt’s legacy, he noted:

“My aunt’s love and passion was music. She was an accomplished pianist and used her musical gifts to serve the Lord throughout her life. Margaret leaves a lasting legacy of blessing and enriching people’s lives through her music. Through this financial gift, my family is grateful for the opportunity to honor Margaret’s memory in such a way that will carry on Christ-honoring music through Bryan’s students for generations to come, just as my aunt sought to do.”

The Bryan community looks forward to the music students will create in the newly renovated lab!