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During those practice concerts, she teaches her students to announce their piece, adjust their bench, prepare to play, and bow afterward. It sets them apart when they perform publicly, she said. “People say, ‘You can tell a Langer studio student by the way they approach the bench,’ ” she said.
She tries to teach students to pursue their goals the best they can and to be responsible. Sometimes they stumble, but “no matter how someone performs, the love between us never stops,” she said.
To help the players relate to the audience on an emotional level, “I tell them that they’re telling a story with their fingers.”
That’s the “magic of music. For a moment in time, they can leave the cares of the world,” Langer said.
Langer, who is also teaching two grandchildren in Hawaii and Canada via Skype, has no retirement plans.
“There’s no reason not to unless my hands were to fall off,” she said. “I love teaching, being a part of their growth and development, and their journey to adulthood.”
‘Tough and friendly’
Kate Azar, who just graduated from high school, spent a decade taking lessons from Langer. She said her longtime teacher shows “how to play with hands and brains” — and the heart.
“She gets to know you on a personal level so you can express yourself in pieces,” Azar said.
Once Langer showed up at Azar’s school robotics competition. “I asked her what she was doing there and she said, ‘I’m here to see you,’ ” Azar said, adding that she was flattered.
Azar remembers a couple of concerts for which she wasn’t 100 percent. Langer was gracious about it, but she “told me I had to do better next time.”
“That was good for me,” she said. “She’s tough and friendly and caring all in one package.”
Azar, who plans to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Minnesota, said, “The general mentality that piano is for life, not just for the classroom, is something I’ll carry with me.”
Student Samantha Martín, who is going into eighth grade, was composing music even before she could talk. She said Langer has told her that “you can have all the potential and talent in the world, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” she said.
In March, Martín won the Minnesota Music Teachers Association’s junior young artist award. She played for a crowd of several thousand at a related honors concert in June. “It sounds cheesy, but I feel like I’m living my dream,” Martín said.
Langer has “really invested in all of her students,” Martín said. “We all know we matter to her. She’s a big part of my life.”
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.