We all have something in our lives that keeps us busy. Whether it be academic demands, a fast-paced job or caring for ones family. For Mrs. Betty Stoloff, life sure is busy. A long-time piano faculty member at Westminster Choir College, Mrs. Stoloff teaches not only piano performance, but also piano secondary courses as well. I myself have been privileged to have had her for my teacher all three years I’ve been at Westminster. Her determination and tenacity for student progress is unparalleled to any other instruction I’ve received from any subject. However, Mrs. Stoloff’s work extends even beyond the campus. With a full (and I mean full) private piano studio at home as well, Betty certainly isn’t twiddling her thumbs. During our interview, it never ceased to amaze me how she was able to find time to breathe with all of the constant teaching. One thing I noted, however, was that she never complained. While she and I laughed at her manic schedule, never once did she ever even suggest she would have it any other way.
As if managing two studios wasn’t enough, Mrs. Stoloff also spends a great deal of time working on a fantastic benefit concert she aptly named “The Performathon”. This coming year’s event (which will be held on Feburary 28th and March 1 of 2015) consists of around 27 individual one-hour long recitals. Each performer raises money from sponsors, whether from practicing or for their performance. This year marks a decade that Mrs. Stoloff has organized this massive undertaking, which she jokes is truly the “marathon”. After a personal experience with the Ronald McDonald House organization, Mrs. Stoloff felt the need to give back to the organization that so gave so much to her and her family. In its ten years, the Performathon has raised over $125,000 for Ronald McDonald houses in New Jersey as well as out of state.
Not all of the performers come from Mrs. Stoloff’s studio however. In fact, this year she has opened it up to students from other teachers she knows from Piano Teachers Forum, one of many organization she’s involved in. Students also come from the Westminster Conservatory as well as from New Jersey Music Teachers Association. All in all, the Performathon boasts around 300 performers. An impressive number that wouldn’t at all be possible were it not for the sponsorship of NJMTA and Westminster Choir College.
While Betty seems to handle her chaotic life with general ease, she acknowledges, however, that most of her students struggle with balancing practice time and keeping up with their academic demands. Too much homework she feels is the blame. “Kids come in with bags under their eyes!” In a further discussion post-interview, she and I agreed that it’s not always necessarily a lack of a want to practice – rather, immediate demands from school often take priority over extra-curricular activities.
Regardless of tumultuous homework assignments or her own jam-packed schedule, Betty still finds ways at the end of the day to make time and focus on what she truly believes is the most important: spending time at the piano. Our interview time together was both refreshing and insightful. I have an entirely new appreciation for her not only as an educator, but also a facilitator. Two roles which I find do not always go hand-in-hand. As a full-time student, I often find myself overwhelmed with the daunting tasks set before me. My discussion with Betty made me realize that no matter what’s handed to me, there are always ways to balance it – it’s all about personal motivation.
You can see the full interview here.