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Angie Wieck, Published September 24 2012

It's My Job: Piano teacher enjoys helping students excel

FARGO – After nearly 45 years of teaching piano, Karen Okerlund often knows if her students have practiced before they even sit down to play. She takes into consideration that kids are very busy these days, but she does what she can to reward dedication.

Okerlund, of Fargo, recently talked about what led her to teach and her love for her students.

Q. How did you start teaching lessons from your home?

A. I was from a very musical family. My mother was a graduate of Concordia College. At one time, she was the organist for WDAY and First Lutheran Church. I went on to study music at Concordia as well. After college I taught two years of elementary music and piano. Then I decided that if I had children, which I was pregnant at the time, that I’d rather be home with them. So, I started teaching from home.

How old were you when you started lessons?

My first lesson was when I was 5 from my aunt, who was really a good pianist. I later took lessons from my mom until I went to college.

How many students do you teach?

I teach about 30 students, from first-graders to seniors in high school.

Do you find that lessons are the idea of the students or the parents?

I would say when they start out, it’s some of both. If they continue to take lessons after eighth or ninth grade, it’s totally the students.

Do you teach any adults?

I used to, but kids are the most fun. One of the greatest parts about teaching piano is that most of the kids I’ve taught have been as young as 4 or 5 and I’ve taught them all the way through high school. … I’m not like a school teacher who only gets them that one year. I get them every year, and I feel like at the end of it they’re kind of my kids.

What do you like best about your job?

I really love interacting with the kids. They are, for the most part, a real joy. I love to see them excel. I love to see them get a piece of music and become proud of themselves. … And, it keeps me young. Maybe they think I’m old, but I don’t feel old.

Are you accepting new students right now?

No, but anyone looking for a teacher could find a referral through the Fargo-Moorhead Music Teachers Association at www.ndmta.org.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501