Dr Clevenger works with Macy McClain

Cedarville piano student overcomes visual challenge

by Natalia Kirychuk, Public Relations Writer


Macy McClain, a Cedarville University junior worship major from Bellefontaine, Ohio, may not read musical notes the same way as other students, but in one way, her performance is more notable than any other. McClain has been blind since birth, and she gave her first public performance at a general recital in December at Cedarville’s Bolthouse Center for Music.

McClain played Bach’s two-part invention in B-flat major.

McClain has been playing piano for several years, mostly learning the keyboard. During fall semester, she wanted to grow her abilities and decided to take piano lessons with Dr. Chuck Clevenger, senior professor of music.

“Macy encouraged me to teach her like every other student, and I did,” said Clevenger, who taught piano to another blind student several years ago. “She’s a quick study and has such a positive attitude about learning. Teaching Macy made me stop and ask myself fundamental questions about how I taught piano to all my students. Through teaching her, I became a better professor.”

“Dr. Clevenger is fantastic, not just as a pianist and professor, but as a person. He was very patient with me — a perfectionist in my own right,” said McClain. “He pushed me, without giving me limitations and setting low expectations. He holds the same standard for everyone, even if people are at different levels. He talked a lot about sound, which is actually something I can pick up on, but he did not neglect the technical aspects of piano playing. He’s the best piano teacher I’ve ever had.”

Without her sight, McClain learned new ways to read the music and find the right keys. Braille music uses the Braille code, but it uses different dot combinations for displaying accent markings, pedaling, intervals, dynamics and other musical symbols. Under Clevenger’s guidance, she has learned how to glide her fingers over the keys to find the correct combinations.

“Macy may not see the same way that I do, but she can perceive; she has insight,” said Clevenger. “She did not learn a simplified version of the music, she learned like every other student.”

At her recital, McClain confidently walked on stage without the aid of a guide. She bowed, then performed the Bach piece to an audience of professors and students.

“I think the performance went great,” said McClain. “Granted, there were a couple of mistakes, but whenever I perform I always tell myself that people make mistakes, just move on. It’s a part of growing musically. It was nice to get feedback from my friends as to how I could improve, and we can all improve musically, no one has arrived yet. Just the fact that they care about me enough to encourage and challenge me, and not tell me that I am amazing because I’m blind and can play the piano.”

“Macy’s performance in the recital was rock solid,” said Clevenger. “She had learned the art. It was just good music.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,963 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.