The Gift that Keeps Giving: Honoring Marvin Blickenstaff

We would like to thank Arlene Steffen for this tribute to her teacher, Marvin Blickenstaff. As we continue the season of gratitude and giving, we pay tribute to piano teachers from around the country who are transforming the lives of their students. Students, parents, and colleagues are honoring piano teachers from their communities as part of the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign. We welcome you to celebrate your own teacher by sharing a tribute with us and donating to The Frances Clark Center.

Sometimes you get a gift and you don’t really realize its value initially. When I studied with Marvin Blickenstaff at Goshen College, I didn’t realize the many gifts I was being given—gifts that have appreciated over time—gifts of training, mentorship, collegiality, and, most of all, love and friendship.

Marvin invests not only in his students’ musical growth and development, but in the person, the relationship.

As a freshman listening to students in the practice rooms, I knew I didn’t measure up, but when I had my first lessons, I knew there was a chance I could get better. The first week of the semester, Marvin asked me to come in for three lessons. He was investing in my future as a musician, but he also began building my self confidence. Each lesson he met me where I was and gave me the encouragement and affirmation to move forward. His door was always open to help me practice or to give advice. 

Marvin Blickenstaff with Arlene Steffen.

Marvin never misses an opportunity to tell you how much he values you. He always wants to know what’s going on in your life both professionally and personally. He’ll hit you up for a recipe, tell you about his latest family gathering or trip, praise your recent accomplishments and take you to dinner. He’ll ask your recommendations for music to play at church, admire your latest studio project, and offer prayers on your behalf.

Every time I step into my studio, I do my best to channel his gracious spirit, his insightful mind, his ability to ask just the right question, and most of all, his pursuit of beauty through music. 

While the public sees a gregarious man full of enthusiasm, knowledge, and skill, what really is on display is love, a direct result of his deep faith in God, handed down to him from his loving parents and molded through a lifetime of hard work, difficulties, disappointments, and joy. He gives tirelessly, knowing that serving others is the best way of showing love.

Marvin taught me to be not only a better musician, but a better person. 

Marvin is the gift that keeps on giving. His legacy lives in every student he has taught, and through those of us who teach, it flows into the lives of our students.

The Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence

In 2023, the Frances Clark Center established the Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence in honor of his legacy as a pedagogue. This division of The Frances Clark Center encompasses inclusive teaching programs, teacher education, courses, performance, advocacy, publications, research, and resources that support excellence in piano teaching and learning. To learn more about the Institute, please visit this page.

We extend a heartfelt invitation to join us in commemorating Marvin Blickenstaff’s remarkable contributions by making a donation in his honor. Your generous contribution will help us continue his inspiring work and uphold the standards of excellence in piano teaching and learning for generations to come. To make a meaningful contribution, please visit our donation page today. Thank you for being a part of this legacy.


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