By Mariah Beverly
The Seattle Medium
Since she was able to sit upright by herself, Jessica Andrews always had her fingers on the keys of a piano. Beginning formal lessons at the age of 4, Andrews had the support of her musically inclined family to inspire her to pursue dreams of being a concert pianist, and later on down the line, a versatile music instructor.
Growing up in a musical family, Andrews was surrounded by many forms of art at a young age.
“My father was a Hammond B3 jazz organist, my mother, who is from Samoa, sings and dances, my (younger) brother was a alto saxophonist, and my (older) sister is a conductor, pianist, and an ethnomusicologist (someone who studies the social and cultural aspects of music),” Andrews says. “Everyone in my family had to play some sort of instrument, or be involved in the arts”
Being surrounded by music throughout her childhood eventually drove Andrews to major in music in college. Graduating from The Cornish College of Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Classical Piano Performance, Andrews was fortunate enough to perform all over the world, including the White House, The Sydney Opera House, and Benaroya Hall here in Seattle.
After college, Andrews returned home to Seattle and her local church, Mt. Zion Baptist church, where a church member asked her if she would teach a few of the youth in the church how to play piano. She accepted and has been giving private lessons to students ever since. Andrews also began teaching at the Decapo Music Academy in Bellevue, Washington, where she met Christine Yang, the owner of the school and a native of South Korea.
Yang founded a sister school in South Korea, giving Andrews the opportunity to travel and teach in a different country. In 2010, Andrews traveled and moved to Seoul, Korea, where she gave students lessons in playing classical piano.
“The transition wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” said Andrews. “I had to learn a few choice words to get around, but everyone preferred for me to speak English instead of Korean.”
While teaching children piano, she would also be giving them English lessons, as many people in Korea are willing to pay for someone to simply speak English around them.
While Andrews taught in Korea, her students in Seattle either continued their lessons under someone else or put their lessons on hold until she came back. When she returned home to the United States, she found a peculiar way to stay in contact with her Korean students.
“When it was time for me to come home to the U.S., I still wanted to stay in touch with my students,” Andrews says. “I began using Skype to give video lessons (to my students) overseas.”
Skype is a type of video calling program, used all over the world by people who wish to stay in visual contact with each other. According to Andrews, using this program had its benefits.
“Using Skype makes it possible to give lessons at any time of day” she states. “I’m able to be really flexible with my time, and work when I want to or need to.”
Seoul is 16 hours behind Seattle, giving Andrews the opportunity to be in contact with her students throughout the day.
Although giving Skype lessons made transitioning back home much easier, there were also a few downfalls.
“I consider myself to be a hands on teacher, if my student doesn’t understand something I like to sit at the piano and play it out for them,” Andrews says. “I can’t do that on Skype…sometimes the connection isn’t always great.”
Today, Andrews gives private lessons in Seattle while continuing her Skype lessons with students in Seoul. She is also planning to extend her Skype lessons to students in Florida and Ohio. Along with her lessons, Andrews is the teaching artist and curriculum developer for the Seattle Symphony.
“I love my job, seeing my students work hard even when they’re discouraged is the most inspiring thing to me,” she says. “I feel like I’m giving back what I got when I was younger…instilling a passion for music at a young age, just like my parents did for me.”
With over 45 students, Andrews sets the bar high for her pupils, and herself. She continues to be a role model for not only aspiring musicians but anyone she mentors or teaches.