Jen­nie ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ started teach­ing pi­ano


She calls her­self an ‘‘ac­ci­den­tal’’ pi­ano teacher, but it took more than good luck for Jen­nie Cole­man to be­come an As­so­ciate of the In­sti­tute of Reg­is­tered Mu­sic Teach­ers.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion of pro­fes­sional mu­sic teach­ers in­vites teach­ers to un­der­take the rig­or­ous process to join. They are re­quired to sub­mit lengthy (up to 20 page) ap­pli­ca­tions, ref­er­ees and other ev­i­dence of their abil­i­ties.

Cole­man has been named an as­so­ciate as a teacher of pi­ano, the­ory and ad­vanced the­ory and is the only as­so­ciate in Queen­stown.

She says it is val­i­dat­ing.

‘‘It’s an af­fir­ma­tion by a long stand­ing and highly re­spected pro­fes­sional body that I am wor­thy of their mem­ber­ship.’’

How­ever, it is a long way from the girl on the Can­ter­bury farm who spent her days hol­ler­ing at dogs in the back pad­docks.

Cole­man grew up with mu­sic, get­ting a de­gree from Otago Univer­sity be­fore head­ing to Lon­don where she did a Mas­ters in eth­no­mu­si­col­ogy.

It was while liv­ing in Kent that she first stum­bled into teach­ing pi­ano, in­clud­ing teach­ing a young Daniel Grim­wood, now a con­cert pi­anist.

‘‘I didn’t in­tend to be­come the vil­lage pi­ano teacher. I did ev­ery­thing I could to de­mol­ish the im­age.’’

She dressed dif­fer­ently, in­sisted chil­dren called her by her first name and let her labrador sleep un­der the pi­ano.

Cole­man re­turned to New Zealand with her hus­band and young son but was widowed shortly af­ter. She taught and stud­ied in Dunedin be­fore mov­ing to Queen­stown four-anda-half years ago.

Now she has more than 30 stu­dents, aged from five to 84 be­ing taught on the first Palatino Grand pi­ano to ar­rive in New Zealand.

The mag­nif­i­cent in­stru­ment, kept from the sun when cur­tains are drawn and touched only by gloved hands, would cost more than $43,000 to re­place, she says.

She also does some lan­guage teach­ing as well as edit­ing and proof read­ing aca­demic work. It was only when she was ap­proached via fel­low mu­sic teach­ers in Cromwell and Alexan­dra to ap­ply to join the in­sti­tute, that she gave it a go.

‘‘I’m as pas­sion­ate about teach­ing as I am about mu­sic, and com­bin­ing mu­sic and teach­ing is pow­er­ful.’’


Queen­stown mu­sic teacher Jen­nie Cole­man with the first Palatino Grand in New Zealand.

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