Edina piano teacher offers lessons in music and life

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 19, 2014 - 2:45 PM

Patricia Langer of Edina, a piano teacher since 1969, helps her students achieve at the highest level.

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Patricia Langer has three grand pianos in her home: one in her living room that her students use for performances, and two in a downstairs studio.

Photo: Photos by MONICA HERNDON • monica.herndon@startribune.com,

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The sound of piano music fills Patricia Langer’s Edina home at all hours of the day.

It has for years, because Langer, 72, has been teaching piano since 1969.

Hers is a formula for success.

Shakopee piano teacher Kathleen Philipp said Langer “sets high standards and expects that [her students] are going to achieve them.” Thus she attracts no-nonsense players who “know what they’re doing” and excel in competitions, Philipp said.

Langer credits her upbringing for that focus on excellence and for her fierce work ethic. Music has been a part of her life since day one, and it has intertwined with life lessons that she’s sought to pass on to her students.

Her mother and father, a singer and a guitarist, respectively, sacrificed financially to give their four children piano lessons. She proved to be a talent early on, playing the organ in church as a fourth-grader. Before long, she was performing at weddings, funerals, evening devotions and daily mass.

She remembers one balmy summer evening many years ago when she was walking out of rehearsal with the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. “I can still see the trees above me, the soft light blue in the sky, and having such a high from playing and singing,” she said.

Langer especially likes to channel the old masters. In the morning, she’s drawn to Mozart and Beethoven, whom she describes as “the intellectuals.” By afternoon, “I go for passion,” which she finds in Chopin and Debussy.

“No matter how accomplished you are, you’ll never exhaust the library. Like a voracious reader, you’ll never read it all,” she said.

In college, Langer so impressed the senior Bob Schmitt of Schmitt Music and musician Lu Rogers that they recommended her for the position of director of music therapy at the former Gillette State Hospital in St. Paul right after she graduated. Even though she majored in applied music performance and education, not music therapy, Langer held that job for two years.

Later, she studied under Dr. E. Thayer Gaston, the “godfather of music therapy” at the University of Kansas.

Early in her career, then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey invited her to join his staff in Washington, D.C., to help incorporate music therapy into his goals for the nation. She turned down the offer because she wanted to stay close to her family, Langer said.

‘The magic of music’

The home Langer and her husband, Henry, share was designed several decades ago with her busy studio in mind. Students come in through the lower level.

Langer doesn’t advertise her studio. Rather, people find out about it through word of mouth, and she has a waiting list.

Her 38 students are all ages, and they come from all over the metro area. Lessons run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., depending on the day. When she was teaching her own children, her day began even earlier.

Sometimes by about 7 p.m. she starts to feel tired, but the moment she gets back into the studio, “I get so pumped I need time to wind down,” she said.

Twice a year, she has concerts in her home, wherein the living room and the foyer become the auditorium. Students play on the upstairs piano, a Steinway Grand, the Louis XIV model, which she calls her “first baby.”

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