From Financial Officer to Piano Teacher | Honoring Sandra Preysz and Lenora Brown

We at the Frances Clark Center believe passionately that piano teachers change the world through their dedication to students and communities. Our Power of a Piano Teacher campaign shares personal tributes to document the extraordinary contributions of piano teachers. We welcome you to celebrate your teacher and share your tribute with us by making a donation to the Frances Clark Center via this form. Together, we will further amplify the meaningful work of our noble profession.

If it weren’t for two piano teachers, I would still be working as a corporate financial officer.

One teacher introduced me to music and planted seeds that eventually yielded the fruit of a deep love for music. The second teacher accepted me as a mature student who hadn’t studied music in nearly two decades. She encouraged and guided me to the completion of my postgraduate musical studies.

As a painfully shy, eight-year-old girl, I avoided drawing attention to myself at all costs. This started to change when I had the opportunity to study piano with Sandra Preysz in Salt Lake City, Utah. In school and family situations I was often too timid to speak. Sandra opened the doors for me to positively express myself through music. As my abilities to understand and perform music grew, so did my confidence. Sandra was the person who introduced a world of possibilities to me. 

At times, my formative years were challenging. But weekly lessons with Sandra were a respite from the pressures of the world. She was a trusted adult who cared not only about my musical development, but also about what was going on in my personal life. Sandra genuinely cared about me as a person, yet still held me to a high standard as a pianist. She saw the potential in me that I couldn’t even see in myself.

Studying piano with Sandra filled my life with meaning and joy. Some of my greatest memories include: having a healthy competition with Sandra’s daughter over who could earn the most stickers on the studio practice chart; playing in Christmas recitals at the public library; participating in music festivals; being honored to attend the Utah Symphony with Sandra and a few of her students.

Sandra’s influence extended well beyond my formative years. As an adult, I earned a degree in accounting and worked as a financial officer for several years. During this time, I found myself at a crossroads, questioning my career choice. I met with a guidance counselor who asked me what brought me the most joy as a young girl. My thoughts immediately turned to fond memories of taking piano lessons with Sandra. With more reflection, I came to know that the thing I most wanted to do was to follow in Sandra’s footsteps and make a meaningful impact in young children’s lives, just like she did in mine. Because of her influence, I went back to college to pursue a career as a piano teacher.

Sandra genuinely cared about me as a person, yet still held me to a high standard as a pianist.

Announcement of the MTNA Sandra Preysz Endowment Fund at the Utah Music Teachers Association board meeting in 2018. Pictured left to right: Heather Smith, Sandra Preysz, Laszlo Preysz, Monika Preysz
Lenora Brown and Heather Smith celebrating the completion of Heather’s final graduate piano recital at the University of Utah. 

Moving from the corporate world back to the classroom was a challenge, but because of. . . Lenora, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

That season is when I first auditioned with Professor Lenora Brown at the University of Utah. Lenora was a highly sought-after instructor who had a studio full of promising piano performance majors, and she really took a chance on me. Studying with her changed my life for the better in profound ways. It was also one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. 

In my first lesson with Lenora, she taught me an important life principle. She said that it is important to put on blinders when studying music. She said there will always be others that will memorize music faster, and seem to have it all together as they perform on stage. Lenora taught me that this can be a dangerous distraction. She told me that she never compared her students with one another and she didn’t want me to make the mistake of comparing myself to others either. Lenora worked diligently to help guide and transform me into the best musician I could become.

As a concert pianist, recording artist, arranger, composer, and Professor of Music, Lenora’s life-long dedication to her students and her profession is noteworthy. She freely imparted her knowledge and interpretation of music to each of her students. As I teach my own students, I often hear her voice and metaphors come to my mind as I guide my students to deeper understanding and better expression through music.

Moving from the corporate world back to the classroom was a challenge, but because of the opportunity to study with Lenora, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Her encouragement, kind instruction, and example inspired me to keep going. When I struggled to fit it all in and questioned my abilities, she was there to lift me up. When I had successes, she was my greatest cheerleader. She opened her heart and her home not only to me, but to every one of her students.

Studying under two inspiring piano teachers was a gift that enriched and shaped my life for good. I will be forever grateful for their examples and what they taught me through their love of music.

piano inspires logo, black with colored stripes in the tail of the piano