Veteran Teacher Interview: Carolyn Malnes

  1. piano with child's hands

piano with child's handsLongtime piano teacher and SMTA member Carolyn Malnes is set to retire next year. She has graciously agreed to answer some questions about her 58 year career and experiences teaching. Thank you, Carolyn, for all your contributions to the profession and to SMTA!


WHAT YEAR DID YOU BEGIN TEACHING? WHAT INSTRUMENT(S)  DID YOU TEACH? The summer of 1955 my piano teacher took me to a workshop. I rounded up two neighborhood students and began teaching piano lessons.

My sophomore, junior and senior years at Washington State University I  taught students in the Piano Pedagogy Class. Came to Edmonds and taught school two years, got married, had a baby and began teaching piano lessons at home in 1963.

WHY DID YOU TEACH MUSIC?  I had worked with students  for several years. Had a Blue Bird Group (little Camp Fire Girls) and worked summers at a Camp Fire Camp. Came from generations of teachers in the family.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW TEACHERS STARTING OUT? Take classes, pedagogy, literature, go to workshops, conferences, conventions…learn constantly!

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT AND THE MOST REWARDING THINGS ABOUT TEACHING? People who don’t pay their bills – after 3 months I  tell them I’m  taking them to small claims court….only once in 58 years  and they paid at the next lesson [The most rewarding things are] having students for several years, watching them grow, develop interests…in some cases  develop life-long friendships.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE TEACHING MEMORIES YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? I often get letters….watching them graduate from high school, college, get married and have babies. I get announcements, and pictures…. have kept scrapbooks throughout my whole career.

HOW HAS THE PROFESSION CHANGED OVER THE TIME YOU HAVE BEEN TEACHING? Teaching materials are more creative and varied…. method books and expanded to include, theory, technic and sight-reading-  there are more  opportunities for teachers and students -like classes, festivals, workshops, competitions, scholarships.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PARENTS CONSIDERING LESSONS FOR THEIR CHILD? Start with the piano because it is  a great basis for anything else… [For] voice, other instruments-  set up a good habit for practicing.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A CHILD LEARNING AN INSTRUMENT?  TO AN ADULT LEARNER? Practice…..set up a schedule.  Your teacher should make it interesting and select creative materials.

WHAT HAS BEING A MEMBER OF SMTA MEANT TO YOU? Constant learning, new materials, ideas, friendship.

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN SMTA OVER THE YEARS YOU HAVE BEEN A MEMBER? More opportunities for students…..introduce us to new ideas. SMTA has constantly provided programs of interest.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE MEMORIES OF SMTA YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? Getting to know the members, their interests, talents.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU  WOULD LIKE TO ADD?  Go to the  sessions music stores offer in having composers come to  discuss their music, service on committees…  chair or volunteer.