Musicians of Concord: Piano instructor Kathy Southworth has the keys

Kathy Southworth (left) gives a piano lesson to Emily Preston at Concord Community Music School last week.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
Kathy Southworth (left) gives a piano lesson to Emily Preston at Concord Community Music School last week. JON BODELL / Insider staff

She played guitar, recorder, trumpet and French horn when she was a kid, but the ivory and ebony keys are what most resonated with Kathy Southworth.

Southworth, piano instructor and dean of students and faculty at Concord Community Music School, started playing in first grade, and her journey with the instrument has been never-ending.

“It kind of goes on forever, the studying,” she said of her life in music.

When she was in grade school, she had a piano teacher who would come to her house. Her dad played by ear, so she was able to learn a lot from him, too. Lesson after lesson, year after year, she continued to build her chops all through her life, all the way to the point where she auditioned for the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. Needless to say, she was accepted, and she even got a master’s degree out of it.

So how did she end up here in Concord?

“When I was in grad school in Illinois, one of my summer jobs was to play for a ballet,” Southworth said. At the same time, St. Paul’s School was in the market for a ballet accompanist, and they liked what they heard from Southworth.

It wasn’t long until she was working at the boarding school, playing piano for the ballet program.

But she wouldn’t stay for too long.

“I found this school (Concord Community Music School, then at a different location) and started teaching here part time – that was close to 30 years ago,” she said. “So I gave up St. Paul’s after two years.”

Since then, she’s pretty much done it all at Concord Community Music School. She went from teacher to department chair to her current role as dean of students and faculty. But even with the added administrative responsibilities of the dean role, she still teaches piano to students of all ages. She also helps other department chairs with their programs, helps facilitate recital performances, accompanies students in performances and plays in the faculty concert series. And you thought you had a busy schedule.

“I do go out as a solo musician, too,” she said. “We might play weddings or go to nursing homes.”

And the piano isn’t the only keyed instrument she plays – she’s also quite the organist, too. In fact, she’s the organist and music director for Canterbury United Community Church, and she also directs the music for the Canterbury Singers.

Somehow, between all of that, she still finds time to teach lessons at the music school four days a week.

“I think it’s a pretty typical musician’s life,” Southworth said.

When asked whether she had a passion for teaching, she said, “Very much so. It’s a very enriching profession.”

If you’re thinking about starting a career as a musician or if you just want to try an instrument for the first time, call the school at 228-1196 or go to ccmusicschool.org to learn more. There are programs for current or prospective musicians of all ages, skill levels and interests – contrary to popular belief, Concord Community Music School is not just for classical music, so don’t be afraid to ask about rocking out.

Author: Jon Bodell

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