MUNSTER - Maxine Gruoner walks over to the two Steinway concert grand
pianos standing side by side in her living room and shows the place in her home
where she has taught so many area students to play the piano.
How many students has "Maxine Gruoner Music" coached and taught? She refuses
to count, it's bad luck.
She moves through the house and offers a pat on the head to dog Ortrud
(named for a character from "Lohengrin," a Wagner opera) then sits down on the
sofa in her den and begins to sort through the photographs and papers that tell
of the life she devoted to the teaching and learning of music.
She took her first lessons when she was an 8-year-old girl growing up in
Hammond. She began teaching when she was about 13.
"When I was in high school, I wanted to be an Algebra teacher," Gruoner
said. But all that changed when she performed the Mozart Piano Concerto in C
Major during her freshman year. "The moment I played the concerto, it turned my
The concert definitely kicked off her teaching career as pupils began to
call on her. In the many years she has been teaching, Gruoner said, she has
never once had to advertise for students.
Perhaps the students she is most proud of are her own three children.
"My children have gone on to become certified teachers. It's very important
to me that I've been instrumental in my own children's lives. I've always
encouraged them to do their best," Gruoner said, adding that she never had to
force them to practice. "They all picked their own instruments."
In addition to teaching, she also is the conductor of the Chopin Chorus, and
a charter member of the Northwest Indiana Chorus. She continues to perform with
her son Stephen, 27, and daughter Suzanne Gruoner Norris, 31. Stephen sings and
plays the violin; Suzanne sings and plays the flute; and Gruoner sings and
plays the piano. Another son, Scott, 35, lives in Greensburg, Ind.
"I love to perform. I love both. You can't perform every day. The
performance comes once in a while. Teaching is an everyday occasion. I love
sharing my knowledge," she said.
In 1952 she was offered an opportunity to join the Caracus, Venezuela
Orchestra and play Timpani with them. She turned down the offer.
"Eisenhower was elected that same night that I was asked to join the
symphony," she said. She pauses for a moment to consider whether she ever
regretted her decision, and said, "Yes and no. It would have been
Gruoner's husband, Glendon, died of cancer two years ago. Today she shares
her home with son, Stephen.
The proud grandma of two won't give away her age, but said, "When I gave my
graduate recital (in 1986 at Roosevelt University in Chicago) they told me my
voice sounded like a 25-year-old's."
A great deal of her time is spent with a variety of organizations including
the Indiana Federation of Music Clubs. Gruoner is the District 3 president for
the group and leads the annual Spring Festival in South Bend. She is also
Munster chairman of the National Guild of Piano Teachers.
When Gruoner began teaching years ago, she traveled to her students' homes.
Once she had a home of her own, she brought her students there. She never
considered opening a studio.
"I think this is a profession and opening a studio would turn it into a
business," Gruoner said. "I don't feel that when you work with children you
should make a business out of it. I believe everybody should be treated like a
"I like to count hearts, not heads."