Naomi Niskala, D.M.A.
Assistant Professor | Music
I started piano lessons at the age of three; it was my mother’s decision at that time. I studied piano extensively through high school but thought I would eventually go to veterinary school for college. Things changed when I entered a double degree program with Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Up until that time, I had played the piano for my parents and teachers. But at the Conservatory, my teacher encouraged me to play the piano for myself—for what I would get out of the music. That is when I realized that music was, in fact, what I wanted to pursue. I left Tufts and continued full-time with the New England Conservatory.
I was inspired by so many teachers—particularly Claude Frank and Gilbert Kalish, who are considered two of the greatest living pianists of the world. They are humble and genuine artists, and superb teachers who put music first and encouraged me to go further.
While having the opportunity to perform as a piano soloist and chamber musician all around the world, I have come to realize that you really can’t perform well if you don’t teach, and you really can’t teach well if you don’t perform. Today, I’m learning as much from my students as they do from me. I’m always learning because there are always new students! One of my greatest challenges as a teacher was to learn how to teach piano to students who didn’t learn as easily as I did!
I think many students think of me as the “tough” professor. But I want to challenge them and help them realize that they have it in them to go far. It’s so rewarding to see potential in your students, and then help them achieve their goal. My students know they can come to me for help and I will spend time with them.
There is a great culture here at Susquehanna. It’s a very tight-knit and supportive community. The faculty has diverse interests and backgrounds, yet we work together very well because we appreciate each other’s strengths and share a common goal of helping our students succeed.
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