Freshman pianist uses skills to teach others


Hanna Trzupek

Freshman Eliza Cheatham practices the piano in the orchestra room during her lunch hour.

Merrillville High School is home to many talented students. From sports to the arts, there are bundles of creativity and talent radiating from each student in this school. One student in particular is Elise Cheatham, a freshman at Merrillville High School who not only plays the piano, but is a piano teacher.

Cheatham started playing the piano ever since she was three years old, as well as having their own private piano teacher.

“I used to go to a private school,” Cheatham said. “There was a piano teacher there, and my mom said, ‘Hey, you should do this!’ – I barely remember it. I do remember we had these music classes and she was my piano teacher, so I would just play the piano and do duets. She became my private piano teacher, and I still go to her lessons to this day.”

Every single day, she goes to her private piano lessons, further mastering her skill at the piano. One day, it pays off extremely well.

“I first got booked due to my piano teacher,” Cheatham said. “She said, ‘Hey, I have too many students. Would you mind teaching them for me?’ And I said ‘Sure!’. So, then she gave me some students to teach. It wasn’t really stressful, it was more like, ‘Could you do this for me?’ ‘Yeah, sure.’ It felt like a chore because I’m not very sociable, but at the same time, I really enjoyed it.”

After that encounter, Cheatham started teaching others the ways of the piano. Her students’ ages range from around 3 to 72 years.

“Usually I would have high school students,” she said. “So they were older than me, but I’d give them books and after the lessons, I’d give them candy, but I’m not really a social person, so it was very dreadful for me. Although, seeing them progress and be happy and passionate made it worth it.”

It is not a far stretch to say Cheatham has a lot of talent and skill when it comes to playing the piano, but of course, it was not always like this. Everyone gets stage fright – even when it comes to celebrities – but there are many different ways to overcome it. Just like how Cheatham dealt with her first student.

“I was feeling very nervous. My whole body was shaking,” she said. “But at the same time, I’m very passionate because I want to make these people feel something. That’s my job as a pianist. So every time I get on that stage I have to feel at peace with my soul. As I ease through I just think about random stuff honestly. Also, I think about the dynamics, the articulation, it’s everything.”

Cheatham has had a special connection with not only the piano, but music as a whole by seeing other pianists and feeling their passion.

“They would make me cry,” Cheatham. “And it’s because I’m feeling something. I’m feeling an emotion I’ve never felt before, and I want people to feel that too. I want people to feel what I’m feeling when I hear the piano.”