My turn

Park district programs hit high note

2014-02-05T00:00:00Z Park district programs hit high note Jennifer Pallay Times Columnist
February 05, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Calumet Memorial Park District is alive with the sounds of music.

I recently found out that our family friend Mike Cierski teaches piano lessons at Calumet Memorial Park District with a new session beginning later this month.

Individual classes run 30 minutes and participants will choose a time slot between 6 and 9 p.m. every Tuesday, Feb. 25 to April 1, at Sandridge Community Center, 600 Oglesby in Calumet City. Ages 6 to adult can attend for a fee of $45 per person.

The park district has an old grand piano that was donated and it works well for the lessons, Cierski said. His current students range from middle schoolers through adults and all are at different experience levels.

The one-on-one ratio gives him time to work on all aspects of learning piano. For some students, it’s hard to find time to practice during the week, so their session is their only time to work on their lesson.

“Even if you haven’t had time to practice, you always need to come to the instrument like it’s your friend,” Cierski said. “It’s your attitude toward the lesson.”

Cierski showed interest in the piano as a baby and began taking formal lessons from Calumet City piano teachers starting in fifth grade. Eventually he moved onto classical and theater organs, which really influenced his decision to move into the music business as an educator.

He is currently a professional musician and educator. This summer, he will receive his master’s degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago.

His lessons focus not just on playing the piano but how to play a piano. Even the posture of sitting on a piano bench is important.

All students are encouraged to have a basic keyboard or piano for practicing. “It’s the same thing as if you want to play baseball,” he said. “You have to have a bat, ball and glove.”

Learning to play the piano uses all three domains of education. It uses your brain, which is cognitive. It uses psychomotor, which is learning through movement. The third domain, which Cierski most takes to heart, is called affection.

“It’s the emotion inside of you that comes out while you’re playing the piano. You have to love what you’re doing.”

Cierski said that while some of his younger students are already experienced piano players, his adult students are all newcomers who are doing great.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you have the desire to learn something new, go and do it.”

Sandridge Community Center also holds many great dance classes such as modern, ballet, tap, hip-hop, lyrical and praise, emailed recreation supervisor Candice Phelan. New this session is Mom and Tot Ballet from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 24 to April 4, at Sandridge Community Center. Moms can attend with their children ages 3 and 4. Cost is $20 for residents, $25 nonresidents.

Phelan, who joined Calumet Memorial Park District in January 2013 after working five years as a dance instructor for the Chicago Park District, said there’s a different dance class every weekday. The best part of her job is creating programs like the ones she grew up with while guiding children to become great leaders, dancers and just plain awesome in anything they want to do.

Everyone can enjoy the tunes during the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at Memorial Park, 612 Wentworth Ave. Girls 14 and younger and their daddies can enjoy a night on the town together. It costs $15 per couple and $5 per additional daughter. Moms can volunteer to help as hostesses.

Call (708) 862-6443 for more information on any activities.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. She can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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