Written by Kerren Dieuveille
Happy World Piano Day! To celebrate, Student Council Member Kerren Dieuveille (Junior at Rollins College) interviewed Professor Dr. Gloria Cook about her journey with the piano.
Pictured: Dr. Gloria Cook and Kerren Dieuveille
When and why did you start learning to play the piano?
Dr. Cook started piano at the age of 3. She would watch her sister practice piano and after memorizing what her sister had played and would play it herself afterward. Dr. Cook’s mother, after seeing her interest, decided to have her start piano lessons and she took a liking to it.
When did you know that you wanted to go beyond keeping piano an extracurricular activity and make it a career?
Dr. Cook never thought of learning and playing piano as an extracurricular activity. It had always been a part of her life. As a high school student, her piano skills benefited her greatly resulting in her winning competitions and receiving scholarships and acceptance to a private school. She knew piano playing could take her anywhere so she followed in her sister’s footsteps and decided piano performance would be her career.
Why did you decide to go out of the country for higher education and what were some difficulties you faced when you did? Why did you decide to pursue a doctorate degree?
Dr. Cook realized that her best chance at advancing her skills in piano performance would be if she studied abroad, like her peers, for higher education since the upper-level music education in her home country of China, Hong Kong in particular, was limited. Although she faced financial struggles her scholarships along with help from her family allowed her to seek a college education in the United States.
When pursuing a doctor of musical arts degree it was not because she wanted Dr next to her name. Dr. Cook just really wanted to get her skills to the highest level possible, even promising her former piano teacher, a student of Arthur Schnabel, that she would go back and take lessons with her after graduation, which she did up until her teacher’s death. She believes that acquiring musical skills is an endless task that requires a willingness to constantly pursue knowledge and refine your skill set.
What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching piano?
Dr. Cook believes watching a student walk off stage and knowing that they feel satisfied with their performance is the most rewarding. To her, it is not just the fact that they played the piece well but that they feel proud of the work they have done.
What is a memorable/nostalgic piece of music for you?
While there is no one piece that stands out above another the music pieces that Dr. Cook worked on with her teacher and sister, like the Liebeslieder Waltzes by Johannes Brahms, bring her back to her time as a student because it reminds her of the moments spent with her teacher and sister. The teaching and traditions that have been passed down to her during those times allow the composers to come alive to her when she revisits those pieces.
Is there anything else you wish to share in this interview?
“The performing, the teaching, and the enjoyment of music can enhance life, create peace, and connect people. What a wonderful language we have under our fingers. We need to use it more. And I believe it would encourage the students in Miami [who know about Culture Shock Miami] to pursue it.”