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UC’s McFarland Provides Assistance to Others Through Music


Williamsburg, KY- University of the Cumberlands’ (UC) Ms. Kay Dawn McFarland spent a large portion of her summer doing what she loves best; helping others enjoy and learn music. McFarland adjudicated for the National Association of Piano Teachers for 17 days in May in San Antonio, Texas and for 13 days in June in College Park, Maryland hearing a total of 425 piano students.

McFarland became involved with the National Association of Piano Teachers through her active membership with the American College of Musicians and has been adjudicating for six years now. In order to be chosen to adjudicate, she had to apply and submit three recommendation letters, in which her UC colleagues were eager to provide for her.

“Participating in the grading of these piano students enhances my ability in the classroom as a music teacher and for my own personal pleasure and knowledge of the craft,” said McFarland. “I have been playing the piano since I was nine years old yet I am still learning something new all the time. Meeting new people with diverse backgrounds and different interpretations of music and literature helps broaden my own thinking and I can apply that knowledge and experience in my classroom and to my piano students. I love adjudicating even though it is a lot of work. Music is my passion and it is amazing to see so many people study and appreciate the same craft.”

Each student who McFarland evaluated memorized up to 20 pieces and the level of difficulty depended on age and experience. They each took home a report card which graded each piece performed, a pin, and a certificate of accomplishment and completion. McFarland explained that this was not a competition but rather a personal evaluation of their work. She not only graded their performance but provided in-depth advice and instructions and where and how to improve while also acknowledging their strong points and congratulating them.

“The students who I heard throughout this entire experience this year ranged from ages four to 75, which is unbelievable if you ask me; incredible to say the least,” said McFarland. “I try especially hard to help these students build confidence during this process as well as learn new approaches to improving their style, presence, quality, and sound. It takes a lot of guts for them to perform and that alone is an accomplishment in my eyes.”

McFarland’s love for music began when she was nine years old and her parents bought a piano. Even though the piano was initially bought for her sister, it developed into a lifelong passion for McFarland and a skill that she has shared with many others throughout the years. She has taught music courses at UC for over ten years now and enjoys giving private piano lessons too. She plays the organ for her church, Middlesboro First Presbyterian, and loves using God’s most precious instrument of all—her voice.

“Music is important for so many reasons,” said McFarland whole-heartedly. “It encourages people to be themselves. It is our feelings in sound. Music is an art and is what makes us human. It feeds our creativity and teaches a discipline that many people need in life. It helps us to just let go and express all of our emotions. The best part is that music is a life-long skill. There are elderly people who are still enjoying being a part of choirs, orchestras, bands, or who simply enjoy playing or singing in the comfort of their own homes. It is a skill that can be perfected and continued for as long as the soul desires.”

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; ten pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information, visit