Piano Pioneers


The University of Wisconsin-Madison Piano Pioneers program offers scholarship lessons (and practice instruments if needed) to children and adults in the Madison community who want to study the piano but can’t afford the full cost of lessons. Lessons are held at the UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building, and teachers are graduate students in the UW-Madison piano performance and pedagogy programs.

Lesson times are flexible and are arranged between each student and teacher. The full cost of lessons is $15.00 per half-hour; most families pay between 1/3 and 1/2 of this cost and scholarships cover the rest of tuition.

Generous support from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, and the Evjue Foundation helps make this program possible. The foundations provide scholarships for piano lessons and provide support for purchasing music books and instruments. The Steinway Piano Gallery is the exclusive partner for Piano Pioneers, generously providing instruments, instrument transportation and tuning through the Steinway Piano Bank.

In addition to offering private piano lessons at UW, and in partnership with the MSCR Safe Haven Program, the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment has made it possible for piano classes to be offered at Falk Elementary School in Madison. The support of the Yamaha Corporation has helped the program purchase new piano labs.

The Wisconsin State Journal profiled the Piano Pioneers Program in November 2009.  Read it here.

Enrollment / Registration

Interested students who are new to the program are asked to contact Prof. Jessica Johnson, program director, by e-mail and also complete the application form and send it either by mail or e-mail (jgjohnson@wisc.edu). Applications are accepted until August 15th for the following academic year. Interviews/auditions for the program will be held during the last two weeks of August. All newly-accepted students should complete and submit the registration form, along with their first payment, early in the Fall semester.


Payment for lessons is due at the beginning of each semester before lessons begin. Tuition can be paid all at once at the beginning of the semester, or split in half and paid in two equal parts, one at the beginning of the semester and the other at the middle of the semester. Students may pay for lessons in person or by mail. If paying in person, bring check or cash to the University of Wisconsin School of Music office, 3561 Mosse Humanities Building, between 7:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or 1:00-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If paying by mail, send checks only (no cash) to Attn.: Prof. Jessica Johnson, UW-Madison School of Music, 5418 Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., Madison, WI 53706, Checks should be made out to UW-Madison School of Music, with Piano Pioneers in the memo.

Program Guidelines

Piano Pioneers is a two-semester lesson program. Students are expected to be part of the program for the whole year (September-May). This ensures that each student gets the full benefit of lessons with his/her teacher. All lessons will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Humanities Building at a convenient time arranged by the student and his/her teacher.

Each teacher will give practice assignments appropriate for each individual student. These assignments are designed to help the student progress in his/her study and make lessons productive and enjoyable. Students and their families are responsible for setting aside time at home for practice. While each teacher can advise students and parents about appropriate amounts of practice time and how to create a positive and distraction-free practice environment, Piano Pioneers students are expected to set aside a minimum of:15-20 minutes a day of practice (beginning students); 20-30 minutes a day of practice (students beyond the first year of lessons); 30-45 minutes a day of practice (students beyond the third year of lessons).

Students can purchase necessary music books from their teacher or from a local music store recommended by their teacher. The average cost of books for the entire year is usually $20-$30.00. Funding is available to help cover the cost of books if needed.

Students are encouraged to participate in recitals, group lessons, concerts, and other special events held throughout the year

The Piano Pioneers staff and teachers want to see each student enjoy and succeed in his/her piano study and will work with each family to meet these goals. Students who consistently miss lessons or come unprepared, however, will be asked to leave the program.

Make-up Lesson Policy

When students sign up for lessons, they reserve a place in the program and in their teacher’s schedule, and teachers make a commitment to carefully plan lessons and be there to teach them each week during the semester. We appreciate the commitment students are making to at-home practice and weekly lessons; we also understand that unexpected events sometimes make it difficult for students (and teachers) to make it to a scheduled lesson. With all this in mind, the following make-up policy is designed to provide a cushion for emergency situations, but also ensure continuity in students’ piano study and fair use of scholarship funding.

Each student is allowed one make-up lesson per semester, provided they give their teacher 24-hour notice of the anticipated absence.  Make-up lessons will be arranged if a teacher is sick or otherwise unable to teach a scheduled lesson.  No make-up lessons will be given for student no-shows, and the student will be responsible for paying the full cost of that lesson ($15.00).  If a student is late for a lesson, the missed time will not be made up

Contact Information

For more information about the program, please see Piano Pioneers Guidelines and Policies, or contact Prof. Jessica Johnson, program director, at jgjohnson@wisc.edu.

Academic Calendar 2015-16


  • September 14 Lessons begin
  • September 21 Half tuition payment due
  • October 25 Recital, Morphy Hall, 3:30pm
  • October 26 Final tuition payment due
  • November 25 – 29 Thanksgiving break
  • December 6 Recital, Morphy Hall, 3:30pm
  • December 18 Last day of Fall semester lessons
  • December 20 – January 25 Holiday Recess
  • January 25 Lessons begin
  • February 1 Half tuition payment due
  • March 9 Recital, Morphy Hall, 3:30pm
  • March 14 Full tuition payment due
  • March 15 – 23 Spring break
  • April 24 Recital, Morphy Hall, 3:30pm
  • May 6 Last day of lessons