Sometimes, when people say they are leaving their position to “spend more time with their family,” they really mean it.
That is the case for Piano Instructor Joyce Li. Her daughter has moved back to Colorado from the San Francisco Bay Area, and Joyce has become a grandmother for the first time. The opportunity to “learn to become a grandparent,” as she puts it, proved to be too good to pass up.
“It’s a new chapter in my life,” she says. “It’s exciting, but I am also nervous, because it’s the unknown.”
From the concert stage to the classroom
Li spent 22 years at Colorado Academy, teaching piano to students young and old. She arrived in 1999, with an extensive conservatory background in the study of piano. At one point, she believed her destiny was to become a concert artist. Instead, she says, “I became a very good teacher.”
What appealed to her about the CA position was the opportunity to teach on a regular school schedule. She had two small children, so she could essentially work on her children’s schedule and be home with them when they were not in school.
“Most piano teachers can only teach lessons before and after school,” she says. “It’s a great amenity for teachers and for students to be able to have lessons during school hours.”
In those early years, Li taught students in a tiny studio in the basement of what is now the Ponzio Arts Center. She only had enough room for an upright piano. With the opening of the Schotters Music Center in 2005, she moved into a studio large enough for two grand pianos, a space, she says, that would be “the envy of a college professor.”
Throughout the years, Li has taught students of all ages, from the very small ones to the mature Upper Schoolers. She has shared her passion for piano with students who study piano for different reasons—those who play to become well-rounded students who pursue excellence in academics, arts, and athletics, and those who are serious students of piano and continue playing after they leave CA.
She encourages students to enter piano competitions and has had students who have played in various music festivals and with the Colorado Symphony. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she says her students have not slowed their participation in competitions.
“Competition is not for everyone,” she says. “But for students who want to compete, it’s good to set a goal and push yourself to try to be the best you can be.”
Ask her what she will miss after she leaves CA, and her first reaction is to laugh. “Truthfully, I will miss pre-pandemic lunch!” she says. “It’s home cooking, and there is an amazing salad bar, where someone has cut up all the vegetables for you! I’m grateful that someone makes lunch for you, and you don’t have to worry about it.”
She says she will also miss her supportive team of colleagues who “offered their professional guidance through so many years.”
Finally, she will miss talking to her youngest students and watching the most accomplished excel. “I think of them all as my children,” she says. “It’s going to be hard to say good-bye.”