Thanks to his students, longtime cellist now really knows the score
As a professional musician, Geoffrey Lapin has long been aware that all the world’s a stage. He learned only recently ― thanks to a group of students at Ivy Tech Community College ― that it’s a classroom as well.
“No matter what, you have to keep the audience’s attention,” says Lapin, a longtime cellist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) now in his second year as an adjunct instructor on Ivy Tech’s Indianapolis campus. “And you’re a performer no matter what you’re doing.”
After four decades with the ISO, it’s no surprise that the 64-year-old Lapin has the content knowledge for the eight-week music appreciation course he teaches in Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP). His young charges might not know a viola from a bassoon, but Lapin has little trouble helping them find beauty in the works of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart.
What is strange, though, is that it took so long for this natural teacher to find his way to the front of a classroom.
“Groomed” by his parents to be a science teacher, linguist or librarian, Lapin’s talent as a cellist instead pushed him toward a career in music. As a high-schooler, he studied at Peabody Conservatory Preparatory in Baltimore, then went on to Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and Butler University before joining the ISO in 1972.
Hints of Lapin’s pedagogical future emerged gradually, first in his sideline gigs as host of orchestra’s “Words on Music” series, pre-concert lectures and classical musical cruises. Later, he honed his chops with the younger generation as a foster parent and, each holiday season, as the ISO’s resident Santa Claus.
Still, it wasn’t until he accepted the adjunct position in 2012 that Lapin realized he had another calling. Best of all, the course and teacher were a perfect match. “It’s about relating everything in their existence to classical music,” he points out.
The classroom experience has shown Lapin that there is a fine line between entertaining symphony audiences and introducing community college students to the nuances of classical music.
“I love to teach people things without them realizing they are learning,” he says. “If you entertain while getting a point across and do it well, then they are learning something.”
And Lapin is learning, too.
“They’ve taught me how to reframe everything,” he says of his students. “They have made me broaden my research so I can find tie-ins (to the music) that they can relate to. And the tie-ins are always there.”
The greatest lesson, however, is the one Geoff Lapin has learned about himself.
“I’ve been playing for 43 years, but this teaching thing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities,” he says. “It’s a niche I never thought I’d fill.”
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