In a cozy office at Shiloh Music store in Mt. Juliet, Karen Hedges’ hands glide along the keys of her newest “baby.”

It’s a shiny, new piano along the wall of her teaching space and when Hedges plays the melody of Mozart, the sounds resonate throughout the entire building.

This mom of two adult boys has been teaching piano for 46 years.

She bought this new piano last April as a present to herself. It’s called a “Boston” and designed by Steinway & Sons, the premier piano makers since 1853.

“I can’t say it is a true Steinway, but since it’s designed by them it comes very close,” Hedges said.

Steinway is even closer to her heart now because recently she received a surprise phone call to tell her she had been selected for the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame, which recognizes North America’s most committed and passionate piano educators. Recently she was one of 44 teachers inducted into the second class of honorees in New York.

“When I got the call about the honor, I had to put it on speaker phone so (her husband) George could hear the news,” said Hedges. “I didn’t know a hall of fame existed. It was a total surprise. I was blown away. Humbled.”

Steinway Piano Gallery of Nashville sales rep Chris Clasgens nominated Hedges for the hall of fame.

“I’ve known Karen for more than 20 years,” he said. “She’s a longtime friend with our company and me. She has a wonderful spirit and is a really good role model for her students. She has a passion for piano, her students and service in this industry with so many organizations.”

Steinway Piano Gallery of Nashville owner Brandon Herrenbruck said he was glad the gallery nominated Hedges for the hall of fame.

“We know of Karen’s reputation of being a top-notch instructor,” he said.

Steinway & Sons Senior Director of Marketing Anthony Gilroy said that the company’s hall of fame stemmed from its longtime “Top Teacher” program.

“Teachers simply can never get enough recognition for the positive influence they have on so many lives,” he said. “Not every piano student is going to become a concert pianist – but every piano student will be better off for their time studying piano. And of course, from a business perspective, we make and sell pianos. So, I can’t think of more important people to ensure that we will have a new generation of Steinway customers 20 years from now, and 20 years after that.”

A perk for being inducted into the Steinway Hall of Fame was a trip to the Steinway factory earlier this month. George accompanied her on the tour.

The sounds of former students

Hedges in charge of the nine educational programs at the music store. She also oversees all of the instruments.

Hedges has 46 students who receive lessons from her in 30-minute increments each week, some even as online lessons. She said that some of her former students now work for her as teachers, and she is teaching some former students’ children and grandchildren.

Many of her students now own their own piano studios. Others teach in schools or at music stores.

Sarah McDonnell is one of 16 teachers at Shiloh Music. Another one is Joseph Akins, a music professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

“I started taking lessons from Karen at age six until I graduated high school,” McDonnell said. “She was always pushing us to be better musicians by entering us in things. She definitely was a role model and showed me I could do a job that I loved. I started teaching when I moved back from my internship with Disney. Karen immediately pulled me into Shiloh asking me to start teaching there. I said yes and now two and a half years later I have almost 60 students.”

Anna Lynn Vaughan teaches at Shiloh Music and is a former Hedges’ student.

“I began taking lessons when I was 6,” Vaughan said. “When my family moved to Mt. Juliet in 2001, I was 11 and we looked for a new piano teacher.”

She and her brother signed up to take lessons from Hedges.

“What was so fun about her was that she always put me in the most fun books,” Vaughan said. “The music was always so fun, exciting and engaging. The pictures were fun, the titles of the pieces were fun. She made everything exciting. Rarely did I play something that was boring.”

Vaughan said Hedges always made sure she got to get to know her students and find out their interests.

“We both loved cats and earrings,” she said. “So, I always used to wear my favorite earrings to lessons.”

Vaughan graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2012 and Hedges hired her as a teacher. Vaughan has nearly 60 students each week.

Hedges said it’s never too late to learn to play an instrument. She’s classically trained and has a penchant for the piano sonatas of Beethoven and Mozart. A living pianist and composer she loves is David Howard Lanz.

“I want to teach and instill this all my life,” said Hedges. “And pass it on. It’s in my blood and a passion. Many people played as a child, and they stopped for some reason and come back to me for renewed enjoyment of their instrument.”

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