The secret lives of our profs: Mary Van De Loo, Instructor in Music

Rachel Young

(Photo by Nhi Nguyen)

Mary Van De Loo has been a piano instructor at Lawrence University for 19 years. She grew up in Kaukana, Wisc., and after completing a degree in piano with an emphasis in pedagogy at Lawrence University, she went on to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma.

As a child, she always knew that she would be a teacher, and took a special interest in teaching music to children after she began as a student at Lawrence. In addition to teaching piano pedagogy to Lawrence conservatory undergraduates, she also coordinates the Basic Keyboarding Skills program and teaches piano to young students at the Lawrence Academy of Music.

RY: What do you do in your free time when you aren’t teaching?

VDL: Well, I like to read. I just read Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I’ve also been reading some books for classes, like “Creative Piano Teaching,” which just came out. Another great book I’ve recently read is “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver.

I also really like to cook. My time is often spent reading cookbooks and cooking on the weekends. When my kids were younger, I used to tell them that I liked to cook because everything gets along in the pot. They would say “But mom, we get along too!” That’s the type of cooking I really like, anything that’s simple and fits in one pot. I have a sweet tooth, so I like making desserts, too. I made a pretty good apple pie last week with apples from the farmer’s market.

I just started running this summer, too. Of course, I haven’t gone since school started! But I’m hoping to get out and go this Friday. When it’s cool out, you can go a lot farther.

I like to travel, too, but I don’t get to travel much. That’s something on my wish list. I was all set to go abroad while at Lawrence, but didn’t get to go. If I could go anywhere, I would probably want to go to Vienna, just to see the history there.

RY: What type of music do you like?

VDL: Well, of course I always listen to piano music, especially when teaching; naturally, I listen to those pieces. However, I actually prefer to listen to other music.

My husband is the music guru in the family, so we always have music going. He switches CDs so fast that sometimes I’m not even sure what we’re listening to! We listen to a lot of avant-garde music, this crazy avant pop. There are all different types; I’m not even sure what you would label it. I guess avant-garde would be the term that fits the best. I don’t really have a favorite band, I’m kind of a dud that way.

RY: If you don’t have a favorite band, do you have a favorite composer?

VDL: That’s harder. I always feel really connected to Chopin for some reason. I really like modern music though, such as newer, experimental music. I’m very drawn to that.

RY: Do you think you will always be a teacher?

VDL: Yes, I always say that teaching is like breathing. If I didn’t teach music, I would probably teach something else. I feel even more connected to the teaching than the music part of it, if that makes sense. As a pianist, if you continue in the field, you’re definitely going to teach. Lawrence places a lot of value on that, so every piano student takes some sort of piano pedagogy while they’re here.