Welcome to the Piano Area at Whitman College’s Department of Music. We offer one-on-one piano studio lessons with Dr. Tom Hicks, Professor Laura Curtis, and Professor Carissa Pitkin Cox. In addition to studio lessons, students benefit from regular studio classes, master classes, internal and external performance opportunities, and faculty and guest artist recitals. We cater to all students with an interest and a passion for music and welcome students with no musical background at all, those that had lessons a long time ago, and those that are wishing to continue their piano studies with a view of applying to graduate musical schools.
Dr. Hicks also teaches Collaborative Piano which is the ensemble class for our area. Through this class, students are given the opportunity to work with other musicians in the department on string, wind, vocal, and piano duet/duo repertoire. Collaborative pianists receive coaching from Dr. Hicks and other studio teachers in the department.
Anyone wishing to discuss getting involved in the Piano Area is invited to reach out to Dr. Hicks for more information.
Instagram & Facebook: @whitmanpianoarea
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Piano
Director of the Piano Area
Director of the Collaborative Piano Area
Tom Hicks has been praised for his ‘gorgeously creative playing’ that ‘transports the listener to another place and time’.
As a recitalist and collaborator, he has performed at venues throughout Europe and the USA. He has appeared as concerto soloist on more than 50 occasions including complete cycles of the Rachmaninoff and Brahms concertos. His recordings for the Métier, Nimbus, and Divine Arts labels include works by Tchaikovsky, Liszt, John Ireland, Rebecca Clarke, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Camden Reeves, and Augusta Read Thomas. In 2019, Hicks gave the launch recital as Artistic Director of the Fanny Davies International Piano Series. He is a gold medalist in numerous national and international competitions and holds degrees and awards from The University of Manchester, The Royal Northern College of Music, Yale University, and Northwestern University. His teachers have included Mervyn Grand, Murray McLachlan, Boris Berman, and James Giles.
He currently teaches as Assistant Professor of Music and Piano, Director of the Piano Area and Director of the Collaborative Piano Area at Whitman College while continuing to perform, record, and lead master classes internationally. He is a Yamaha Artist.
“I view my approach to teaching as a two-way creative process where musical concepts, sounds, and approaches to the instrument are explored together. Alongside long-term goals, responding and reacting to each student in the moment leads to a dynamic, stimulating, and personalized studio atmosphere. I believe in a comprehensive approach to teaching music and to supporting the overall health and well-being of my students. My goal is to develop independent, thoughtful, and fulfilled student artists, equipped with the skills, knowledge, and drive to continue building upon their own burning passion for music.”
Studio Music Instructor: Piano
Laura grew up with an extended family where music was the center of every gathering. They sang and danced every time they got together and not one of them was a trained musician. Her teaching is influenced by this love for music and the belief that you don’t have to be a professional musician to enjoy making music.
Originally from Portland, Oregon Laura was an accompanist for the Oregon Dance Academy, Portland State University Dance Department, The Portland Civic Theater and performed regularly at Rimsky Korsacoffee House.
After moving to Walla Walla she worked with Little Theater of Walla Walla, both as pianist and music director, on many of their musicals. In 1997 she began teaching applied piano at Whitman College and worked regularly as rehearsal and performance pianist for their annual musicals. Apart from Whitman, she is the pianist for the vocal ensembles at Walla Walla High School and accompanies and performs at Midsummer Musical Retreat, a week long music camp for adults.
Laura received her Bachelor’s in music from Oregon State University and Master of Arts in Music from Washington State University. She is an active member of WSMTA and currently serves as the State Coordinator for the collegiate division of the annual MTNA competition.
Carissa Pitkin Cox
Studio Music Instructor: Piano
Carissa Pitkin Cox has been recognized for her expressive conviction and commanding precision as both as a soloist and a collaborative pianist. Passionate about the power of music as a platform for social change and engagement, she served as an ambassador with the Mélange International Music Foundation, which offers music programs for children in developing countries. She has presented research on the music of fin-de-siècle Paris, and avant-garde aesthetics (expression theory). Her scholarly interests include music and philosophy, music entrepreneurship, and piano pedagogy. Cox previously taught at The Boston Conservatory and the University of Cincinnati-College-Conservatory of Music.
Cox holds a B.A. degree in Piano Performance with a minor in Education from Whitman College, and M.M. degrees in Piano Performance (The Boston Conservatory) and Musicology (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). Her primary mentors have included Leonard Richter, Lee Thompson, Max Levinson, and Jonathan Kregor.
“It is my goal as a teacher to guide students to become self-aware and courageous musicians. My pedagogy at the piano focuses on building solid technique aimed at developing ease of playing with the goal of cultivating fearless expression in performance. I teach students how to develop their own unique voice as a performer, and consequently, their own unique aesthetic as a musician, and an individual. I believe that studying music helps students to better understand themselves through self-awareness, self-expression, and dedication—and better understand their world through shared, common experiences.
As a teacher, I want my students to understand the many roles that music can play in our cultural discourse: it has the power to disrupt, as well as to elevate, foster innovation, and impact positive change in their own lives, as well as the world around them. I encourage my students to broaden their idea of what music, music-making, and performing can be, and empower them to share that with others.”