April 10, 2006
NG piano teacher has been giving lessons for half a century
By Linda Scherer
The lesson begins. Each student knows the drill. They have had time to practice for an entire week. Forty minutes to show that they have done as they were instructed.
Everything is reviewed. The next lesson is planned. Something to review. Something new to memorize.
It is a weekly routine for piano students of Vernice Menth, piano teacher, who gives lessons out of her home in New Germany.
Menth’s lessons begin with the start of the school year and end in May with a piano recital at the local church.
Menth has students working ahead toward a piano recital, state piano contest, or piano and theory sight-playing exams given at different Minnesota schools and colleges during the school year.
Menth’s students respond to her encouragement and expertise.
“I just think that she is so amazing for her age and so knowledgeable. Always complimentary and encouraging,” commented Jane Otto, Lester Prairie resident and one of Menth’s adult piano students.
Piano students are expected to work hard, trying music that students may feel they are not capable of performing, then finding out that they can. Menth feels piano requires practice, memorization, and discipline, because music is a language.
“It also helps with their school work, because what they learn in music they can use in school, especially math. They learn concentration and discipline too,” Menth said.
Her favorite music is Baroque and classical.
“I really like all kinds of music, but I think it’s because I give Bach to the kids and they just love it,” she said.
Growing up in Mayer, Menth began taking lessons from a neighbor when she was about 11-12 years old. After attending school at Mayer, she went to school at the McPhail School of Music in Minneapolis to study piano and organ, music history and theory. Then, later, she took pedagogy classes at McPhail, too.
She took lessons for more than 10 years and is an accredited member of the Minnesota Music Teachers’ Association. The membership signifies that she has an accredited bachelor’s degree in music and that she has five or more years of teaching experience.
She has taught piano lessons for a total of 50 years. There is a picture of some of her first piano students on her bulletin board. That picture was taken in 1943.
Menth was married to her husband, Howard, who is no longer living, for 60 years. They have four children, two boys and two girls. Howard farmed his entire life until they moved off the farm about 20 years ago.
Because of the farm work and while the children were younger, Menth took a break from giving lessons for about 15 years.
However, all of her children took piano lessons beginning when they were in elementary school, but not from her. Her two sons took lessons until they were in eighth grade.
Today, one of her daughters is an organist in her church in Michigan and teaches kindergarten. Another daughter has a PhD in piano performance and teaches piano at the Colorado Christian University in Denver, Colo.
Menth is currently teaching 23 students (some adults). She has taught as many as 55 students during a single year.
When asked how many students she has taught in 50 years of lessons she said, “I really don’t know. I just know it’s hundreds. That’s all I can say. I have no idea. I have students that have made a career of teaching music. Some teach piano and band in grade school, high school, and even college.”
Menth recently retired as organist at St. Mark Lutheran Church in New Germany, where she played for many years. However, she is not ready to retire from giving piano lessons.
“I really enjoy it. Especially now since my husband has passed away. It is really nice to have these people here. The parents are wonderful and the students are wonderful, too. I will continue to do this as long as I can.”