Texas Tech University

Fulbright Scholar Combines Passions for Music and Teaching with Piano Pedagogy

Cara Vandergriff

December 2, 2015

Laura Lennis came from Colombia to Texas Tech to earn her doctorate.

Laura Lennis

Laura Lennis has always loved the arts – especially music. She began studying it as a child, taking a special interest in piano at an early age.

She's also always loved academics. In high school, she knew she wanted to teach – she'd always been attracted to a career in academics. It was then she realized she could combine her two passions, music and teaching, by pursuing a degree in piano pedagogy.

Lennis grew up in Medellin, Colombia, where she cultivated her love for music and piano. She was attracted to the university learning environment and quickly became intrigued with pursuing a career in that setting.

“I really like the university learning environment, where you can meet people with different points of view and knowledge about life,” Lennis said. “I like that the most important thing is helping others to achieve their dreams and goals.”

Lennis taught music at Eafit University in Colombia for many years to both music and non-music majors as well as children. This experience helped her further solidify her dream of teaching.

“I really found the teaching experience inspiring because you nurture yourself through others and see how people improve their skills with your help,” Lennis said. “It is wonderful.”

Her love for teaching led to her decision to pursue a doctorate in fine arts with an emphasis in piano pedagogy, a discipline focused on the theory, practice and education of piano.

“I wanted to improve my ability to guide others to find their own path with the piano and music-learning experience,” Lennis said.

Her piano pedagogy dream, along with an interest in studying abroad, led Lennis to apply to the Fulbright Scholars Program.

“Being a Fulbrighter is a big honor for me,” Lennis said. “I'll always recommend pursuing a Fulbright grant. It has a special meaning, not only for your resume but for you as a person. It's a goal that represents effort, dreams, friendship, culture and knowledge, and it always involves community.”

Lennis decided to attend Texas Tech University after much research, saying she felt a strong connection with the piano pedagogy program.

“I've had a lot of support from my advisor, Carla Cash,” Lennis said.

Cash, an associate professor in the School of Music, said Lennis has stood out in the piano pedagogy program since she first submitted her application.

“Laura expressed her interest in understanding the process of teaching and learning more deeply,” Cash said. “She also spoke of her desire of studying how the arts, in general, can be used to reach different types of learners with unique personalities and needs. Her intellectual curiosity confirmed she was a perfect fit for our program.”

Since Lennis arrived at Texas Tech, she's been able to increase her skill set as a pianist as well as refine her instructional abilities in the classroom.

“In just one semester, she's done a terrific job of drawing from her past experiences, more carefully labeling and defining the behaviors that comprise effective teaching, and refining her instructional abilities in the classroom,” Cash said. “Her skills as a pianist have also developed. Her desire to understand at a deep level how body mechanics influence sound production and expressivity on one's instrument is bringing her closer to her goal of becoming a stronger, more confident performer.”

Lennis hopes to bring what she's learned at Texas Tech to the piano teachers of Medellin to improve aspects of musical education in her hometown.

“From conversations with Laura, it is evident that in Medellin there is limited access to the latest information about current trends, research and materials in piano pedagogy,” Cash said. “She's been so motivated by all of the resources she's encountered here at Tech in just a few months that I can already see the wheels turning. I have no doubt that Laura has the capacity to develop into a leader in her field and launch a teacher training program of her own one day.”

Though she misses her family and friends back home, Lennis said she wouldn't trade the Fulbright experience for anything.

“This experience has challenged me not only academically but personally as well,” Lennis said. “I've grown from who I was before to who I am now, and I'm learning so much.”

Lennis said one thing she's learned from her time at Texas Tech is that even if she gets lonely, she's never alone.

“You can find nice people anywhere here,” Lennis said. “You can share and learn a lot from others and make some truly great friendships.”