stringed instrument

Among the earliest stringed instruments with a keyboard in Europe was the dulcimer, a closed, shallow box over which stretched wires were struck with two wooden hammers. The dulcimer led to the development of the clavichord, which also appeared in the 14th century. These were followed by the spinet, virginal, clavecin, gravicembalo, and finally, the harpsichord in the 15th century.

The harpsichord, however, was limited to one, unvarying volume. The artistic desire for more controlled expression led directly to the invention of the piano, on which the artist could alter the loudness and tone with the force of one’s fingers.


The earliest piano, or pianoforte as it was called at the time, was invented by expert harpsichord maker Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua about 1698-1700. (Historians are not in total agreement as to the exact date.) Cristofori was able to solve the fundamental mechanical problem of piano design: the hammer must strike the key but not remain in contact with it. This way volume could be controlled and the same note could be hit multiple times in succession. Cristofori’s new instrument was known as the pianoforte because it allowed players to produce notes at different dynamic levels by controlling the inertia with which the hammers hit the strings.


During the late 18th century, piano-making flourished in the Viennese school which included the likes of Johann Andreas Stein and the Viennese makers Nannette Streicher and Anton Walter. Viennese-style pianos featured wood frames, two strings per note, and leather-covered hammers. Some of these pianos came with black natural keys and white accidental keys, the opposite of modern day pianos and keyboards. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his concertos and sonatas for such instruments.


The piano is at the center of Western musical history in every style of music, from classical to jazz and rock/pop. Well-known pianists in the 20th and 21st century include Ling Ling, Yuja Wang, Elton John, Billy Joel, Art Tatum, Ray Charles, Mary Lou Williams, and Marian McPartland.



Nicholas Sanders

Piano Teacher
Nicholas Sanders first began taking piano lessons at the age of five and has ever since had a lifelong passion for music. Nic's youth saw him explore various different forms of music, from classical to musicals, as well as an array of different instruments. At the age of 18, Nic began his studies at Millikin University where he majored in Commercial Music and would go on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with his Bachelor's in Music degree. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Nic found himself has a lead soloist in the top jazz band as well performing with a multitude of different ensembles including student lead commercial albums to being a keyboardist in the school's musicals. Nic has also received his Masters in Music degree from Southern Illinois University where he studied Music Theory and Composition. As a composer, Nic writes a for a wide variety ensembles and styles including solo piano works, choral music, as well as a one-act musical and more. At SIU, Nic was an instructor and graduate assistant of various classes, including teaching class piano and music theory. He was also an accompanist for a large number lessons and classes at the School of Music Nic's goals for teaching mirror his own experiences as a pianist. He strives to open his students to a wide variety of musical styles and techniques which he believes help cultivate a lifelong passion for music. Whether it be classical, jazz, or pop, Nic hopes to find the right styles for each student so that they can have the personalized learning experience they deserve.
Kelsey Grotkiewicz Headshot 2019

Kelsey Faith Grotkiewicz

Piano Teacher
Kelsey Faith Grotkiewicz is a Chicago singer with a Bachelor’s in Music from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Kelsey began her musical career studying with Dr. Mark Alan Stingley, continuing at university with Professor Dawn Harris. In 2016, Kelsey was one of two emerging musicians who received the Ikenberry Fine Arts Award. Kelsey also performed with university and local opera companies. Some of her performances were L’incoronazione di Poppea, La púrpura de la rosa, and King Arthur. For the last two years Kelsey participated in Professor W. Steven Smith’s intensive vocal program, the Naked Voice Institute at Northwestern University. During the institutes she performed scenes from L’incoronazione di Poppea and Idomeneo. Kelsey has been teaching since 2017. Currently Kelsey studies with Professor Smith and Dr. Stingley. She continues to perform and teach in the Chicago area.

Sladjana Saric

Piano Teacher
Sladjana Saric is the founder and director of Bel Canto Music Academy with both master's and bachelor's degrees in Flute Performance from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, Serbia. She is an accomplished opera singer and concert performer in both Europe and the United States, and is currently a member of the Grammy-winning Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Lakeside Singers. Sladjana earned her Master’s in Vocal Performance from the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, Serbia, and she earned a specialization degree in Vocal Performance from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary in the class of opera star Eva Marton.

Audrey Daum

Piano Teacher
Audrey Daum is an in-demand singer and actor throughout the Chicago area. She began her musical life at the piano enjoying success competitions including a win at the MTNA national youth piano competition, but found her calling on the stage. She achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance and Theater from the Wheaton Conservatory and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in voice. She has been the student of master-teacher Denise Gamez for eight years. In 2016 she made her opera debut as Susannah in Il Nozze di Figaro at the Miami Summer Music Festival under the direction of opera star Manny Perez. She most recently performed the role of Guilietta in E il Capuleti e il Montecchi by Belinni at Michigan’s Up North Opera Theater. Audrey has taught voice for six years and considers her student’s success as an integral part of her professional work. Her teaching focuses on healthy technique and creative artistry no matter the musical style and she loves to tailor her lessons to the unique strengths and goals of each student. Audrey also performs frequently as an actor on Chicago stages like Arena Theater, Dear Stone and the Chicago Shakespeare Festival.

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