Piano Study


The St. Olaf College Music Department provides aspiring musicians with a variety of training and performing opportunities that prepare them for the challenges of this rich artistic pursuit.

Each semester, approximately 120 St. Olaf students take private lessons from one of the six professional piano faculty. Both classical and jazz piano are offered. Instruction in piano for music majors and non-music majors is offered in private weekly half-hour or hour lessons.1

Piano students have the opportunity to perform as soloists in solo recitals, group recitals, the St. Olaf Piano Forums, and studio classes. Pianists interested in collaborative performance have many opportunities to perform with instrumentalists and vocalists in recitals and juries. Every second year a group of student pianists are selected for a weeklong performance tour. Recent tours went to Texas and Washington State and Indiana and Michigan. In addition, the large ensembles (orchestras, bands, choirs) frequently perform repertoire on campus or on tours, which requires a pianist. The large ensembles frequently feature student soloists on concert programs, tour programs and in the St. Olaf Orchestra’s annual Senior Soloists concert in May.

St. Olaf also offers course in collaborative piano, and piano literature and pedagogy, which focus on methods of teaching and include opportunities to teach. The January Interim term and the programs of independent study and research, and collaborative undergraduate research provide opportunities to create projects that fulfill individual needs and interest. Music majors may elect an interim or semester abroad; offerings include programs in Milan, Vienna or Copenhagen specifically designed for music majors.

Degree Programs

Piano Faculty

kao11bwwebKathryn Ananda-Owens
Associate Professor of Music — Piano
Winner of first prize in the 1993 Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition, pianist Kathryn Ananda-Owens enjoys an active career as performer, teacher, and scholar. A laureate of the American Pianists Association Biennial Fellowship Competition, she made her Asian debut in 1997 under the auspices of the government of Macao and her European debut the same year in Vienna. She has performed as a soloist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, toured internationally as piano soloist with the St. Olaf Orchestra and has appeared at Lincoln Center. A founding member of the New Horizons Chamber Ensemble, Ms. Ananda-Owens also performed for several years as pianist of the Melius Trio. She received degrees from Oberlin College, Oberlin Conservatory, and the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, where she studied with Julian Martin. Her concerts have been broadcast on radio and television on three continents and recorded on the MSR, Centaur, Limestone, St. Olaf Records, and Westmark labels.  Dr. Ananda-Owens serves on the board of directors of the Performing Arts Medicine Association.

atz711webChristopher Atzinger
Associate Professor of Music — Piano
Praised in Gramophone for his “abundant energy, powerful fingers, big sound and natural musicality,” pianist Christopher Atzinger has performed in Austria, Germany, England, Italy, France, Spain, and Canada in addition to performances throughout the United States highlighted by concerts in New York at Carnegie Hall (Weill), New York University, St. Paul’s Chapel, Liederkranz Hall; in Chicago at the Dame Myra Hess Series and PianoForte Salon Series; and in Washington, D.C. at the Phillips Collection.  In addition to live performances broadcast on WFMT, WJR, KPAC, WXEL, and WGTE radio, his artistry has been heard on WGBH, KING-FM, Minnesota and Wisconsin Public Radio, and on Chicago and Cincinnati television. Mr. Atzinger has performed at the Banff International Keyboard Festival, Brevard Music Festival, Bridge Chamber Music Festival, and the Chautauqua Institution, lectured at the Juilliard School and Berklee College of Music, and has given masterclasses across the country.

As a medalist of the New Orleans, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Shreveport, and Seattle International Piano Competitions, Atzinger has been praised by critics for his “personal interpretive vision” and “virtuoso aplomb”.  He was also winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs Artist Competition, the Simone Belsky Piano Competition, and the Premio Città di Ispica prize at the IBLA Grand Prize Competition in Ragusa-Ibla, Italy in addition to receiving honors from the Frinna Awerbuch International Piano Competition, the National Society of Arts and Letters, and MTNA.  Additionally, he has received grants and fellowships from the Theodore Presser Foundation, the American Composers Forum, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Foundation La Gesse, and the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation.

In addition to degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, Atzinger earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University.  He counts among his teachers Julian Martin, Robert McDonald, Anton Nel, David Renner, and Carolyn Lipp.  Prior to his faculty appointment at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, he taught at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.  Mr. Atzinger is represented by Parker Artists, New York (parkerartists.com).

SarahBurknarrowSarah Burk
Visiting Instructor in Music — Jazz Piano
Sarah Burk is a performer and recording artist on keyboards, vocals and violin. Sarah holds a B.M. degree in Music Theory/Composition from the University of Minnesota – Duluth and a Master of Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota. She has also studied Salsa and Latin Jazz with Nachito Herrera. Sarah has toured the United States, Europe and the Middle East with a variety of ensembles and theatre troupes, and has performed on National Public Radio with Salsa Del Soul. Other endeavors keep her active in African and international dance music, jazz, R&B, gospel, big band, classical chamber music and variety ensembles. She has been involved in more than 30 theatre productions in Europe and America serving in roles as music director, conductor, composer, pianist, violinist and arranger.

ronningLori Folland
Staff Pianist
Lori Folland is a staff pianist at St. Olaf College. Prior to her appointment in 1991, she served as a collaborative pianist at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a chamber musician, Lori has been extensively involved with the collaborative art of music making. She has appeared on the “Y” Concert Series in Pittsburgh, on the Twin Cities Schubert Club Artist Series, the Bridge Chamber Music Festival, and on numerous recitals with friends and colleagues, and has soloed with the St. Olaf Philharmonia.  Her live performances have been recorded for broadcast on WQED, Pittsburgh. She collaborated with JoAnn Polley, clarinet, to record works by Litaize, Bozza, Devienne, and Rameau. Their CD is entitled “French Music for Clarinet and  Piano”. Lori has also been active as a piano teacher and piano competition adjudicator.

FriesenSandra Joy Friesen
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music — Piano Class, Piano
Sandra Joy Friesen is a pianist and music educator of a broad range of solo and chamber repertoire, from traditional classical and contemporary performance, to interpretation of pictorial scores and interdisciplinary collaboration. As an ambassador of Canadian music, she was invited by the Association for Canadian Studies in Mexico (2008) and in Brazil (2009) to represent the University of Alberta and Canadian composers in solo piano recitals. As an original member of the eXperimental improv Music Ensemble (Edmonton) exploring the integration of artistic disciplines, she has collaborated with composers, dancers, actors and visual artists. She has also performed in Austria, England, France, Poland, Germany, and Slovenia, and has toured through various parts of Canada and the United States. Her discography includes a Centrediscs (Canadian Music Centre) recording Earth Songs (Stephen Chatman), Garden of Music (Alain Mayrand) and From the Beginning Vol. 1 and 2 (Larry Krantz, flute). Funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, in October 2013 Sandra Joy will record an album of solo piano music, which will include video tutorials on contemporary piano techniques.

She earned a Doctor of Music degree from the University of Alberta, and her research was recognized by the highest ranks of academic support in Canada. Among numerous awards, she was a recipient of an Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Scholarship, a President’s Prize of Distinction, and a Margaret McWilliams Fellowship from the Canadian Federation of University Women. Giving over 50 presentations of her research during doctoral study, both locally and abroad, the U of A awarded her the Andrew Stewart Memorial Prize, and she completed the degree as a scholar of the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies

Her major piano teachers have been Jacques Després, Jane Coop, Douglas Finch, Jean Broadfoot, and Walter Thiessen. She has participated in master classes under Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Catherine Vickers, Marvin Blickenstaff, and Stéphane Lemelin, and she studied improvisation and free interpretation with Douglas Finch (London, England) and French piano music with Paul Roberts (Réalmont, France). She is a current recipient of an Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund Award.

jensenJohn Jensen
Staff Pianist

John Jensen, BA, Occidental College (Calif.) and MA piano performance, University of Southern California. Principal teachers were Gwendolyn Koldofsky and John Crown (piano), and Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl (composition and 20th century techniques.) He works regularly with the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO, and is sought after as a collaborative pianist, playing with fine artists in concerts and music festivals across the country. He often appears on St. Paul Sunday Morning and A Prairie Home companion and has performed with artists such as Doc Severinson, Andy Williams, and Nancy Wilson.  He is co-founder of Helios, a classical-jazz quartet, and is the pianist in a jazz-only quartet of musicians from the Twin Cities. His discography includes solo recordings of classical piano, jazz, ragtime music, and chamber music with various artists. He received a Grammy nomination, a Stereo Review “Record of Special Merit” award, and a “Record of the Year” citation from the Village voice.

MCWwebKent McWilliams
Professor of Music — Piano
Department Vice Chair
McWilliams holds a B.M. and a M.M. in Piano Performance, from the University of Toronto and a D.M.A. from the University of Montreal. He lived in Poland for a year, where he studied with Andrzej Jasinski and researched the Polish folk elements in Chopin’s mazurkas and polonaises. He also studied in Germany, where he earned an Artist Diploma with highest distinction under pianist Oleg Maisenberg at the Stuttgart Musikhochschule. McWilliams has enjoyed a successful performing career, having performed in over a dozen countries, and has been an award winner at competitions of Porto (Portugal), the Regina Symphony, the Canadian Music Competitions and the Canadian National Competitive Festival of Music. He performs and records chamber music as a member of the Meridian Trio. McWilliams joined the faculty at St. Olaf after having previously held teaching positions at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada and at the Glenn Gould Professional School in Toronto. Also active as a clinician, he has presented performance and pedagogy workshops across North America.

Paddleford10Nancy Paddleford 
Professor of Music — Piano
Nancy Paddleford, Professor of Music. B.M. and M.M., Indiana University; D.M.A. University of Minnesota. Her teachers have included Gyorgy Sebok, Alfonso Montecino and Bernhard Weiser, and she has studied chamber music with Janos Starker, Joseph Gingold, William Primrose and Franco Gulli. Active as chamber and solo recitalist as well as adjudicator at piano competitions in the United States and Central America, Paddleford’s teaching areas include piano performance, chamber music, theory skills and piano pedagogy. Her research emphases have been Hispanic music, piano pedagogy and memorization techniques. Paddleford has served as artist-in-residence at the University of Costa Rica, has performed twice at the International Festival of Music in Costa Rica as well as three times at that country’s Monteverde Music Festival. She is the recipient of the Pro Lingua Award for promoting cross-cultural understanding between the U.S. and Latin America, and was asked to give a St. Olaf Mellby Lecture about her scholarly work. A number of her performances and interviews have been broadcast on radio here and abroad.  Paddleford, by appointment of the Governor of Minnesota, is currently serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Perpich Center for Arts Education