Karla Wakeen is currently residing in La Crosse, WI, where she teaches general music in a K-8 setting and has recently opened an independent piano teaching studio. Karla began teaching piano lessons privately to students of all ages in the spring of 1983 at the Viterbo College Preparatory School of Arts. Karla holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Viterbo College where she studied piano with Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck and Dr. MaryEllen Haupert.
Karla also holds a Master of Arts degree in Piano Pedagogy from Western Illinois University (Macomb, Illinois), where her responsibilities included teaching group piano classes, collaborating with vocalists and instrumentalists, and teaching private lessons in the WIU Preparatory Piano School. At WIU, she studied piano and piano pedagogy with Dr. Michael Campbell, Dr. Claudia McCain, and composition from Dr. Paul Paccione. Upon graduation she was granted an invitation into the Pi Kappa Lambda honorary music society.
Karla has been an active member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), Wisconsin Music Teacher's Association (WMTA), Nation Association for Music Education (NAfME), Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA), American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA), Technology Instruction for Music Educators (TI:ME), Wisconsin Alliance for Composers (WAC), Inc., and the Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI). She actively seeks to stay current and further her professional development as a teacher by regularly taking graduate music education classes, and attending La Crosse Area Music Teachers Association (LAMTA) events as well as national and state conferences.
How I became interested in the piano...
I remember the day my Dad came home with our first piano. We lived in the country and my Dad drove an old rusted aqua truck, the kind where you could stand on the platform right outside of the door. The old upright piano was wrapped up and tied tightly into the back of his truck. He had a couple of his friends help him get the piano into the house. This was not an easy job, but after a couple of hours they got it into the house. Piano lessons started every Saturday after that.
I was only five years old at the time and not the strongest student. My brother, three years older than I caught on quickly. He tried to be patient since he was designated to helping me practice. Once I began to catch on I could practice on my own. Still, my brother was always the star. He loved playing for others to hear, and he was good at it too. Never worrying about the little mistakes he was always confident.
Sometimes I wished I could play as well as my brother. He drew many friends because of his talent. I on the other hand, would always become nervous and inevitably mess up. People were always kind about that, but I was often disappointed that I couldn't share what I knew. Years later I was still nervous when performing, but I discovered that I could play much better if I played for "myself."
I entertained myself for many hours of practice. I used my imagination to create stories that went along with the music I played. For some reason it was easier to tell a story than to try to remember all of the correct notes and rhythms in the score. I still worried about playing every note correctly, practicing one hand and then the other many times. Sometimes there was a small part that needed all of the attention and I wouldn't even get to play through the entire song. Sometimes it felt like too much work, and progress seemed so slow.
I remember my Mom telling me that because I had to work so hard to get better, that I would be a stronger player than others who seemed to be born with ability. At the time I didn't really understand, but eventually I came to see what she meant. Those who work so hard to learn have not only improved their musical skills, but also their ability to solve learning challenges independently. So, I learned never to give up or let those "bumps in the road" get in the way, and that learning is never done. Someone who knows how to work hard can accomplish and learn many things. That is one of the many reasons I teach music today. I want to share the gifts that were given to me.