Ojo Amarillo Elementary fourth grader Miguel Prettyboy plays a song on the piano on Thursday, May 23, 2013.
Ojo Amarillo Elementary fourth grader Miguel Prettyboy plays a song on the piano on Thursday, May 23, 2013. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)
FRUITLAND — After hearing Natalia Kruse playing the piano at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School, a student came up to the music teacher and asked her if she was born able to play the piano.

"I told her no," Kruse said. "Nobody's born like that."

When Kruse noticed her students' desire to play the piano, she started a piano club. The club meets before and after school every day to practice on 25 small keyboards provided by the school.

The keyboards have a setting that plays different drum beats. Kruse said after students learn a song, they can use the setting to play it using different rhythms.

Kruse said a lot of her students come from low-income families that aren't able to pay for music lessons for their children.
Natalia Kruse, music instructor at Ojo Amarillo Elementary, sits with members of the piano club.
Natalia Kruse, music instructor at Ojo Amarillo Elementary, sits with members of the piano club. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)


"They are very artistically talented kids," Kruse said. "You have to channel the talent, help it to grow."

Her students are committed to the music, Kruse said. Many of them come to the club every day, and some of them even asked their parents to buy small keyboards for them for Christmas. Kruse said she encourages her students to continue with their music and to eventually go to college.

Two of her students have already seen significant success. Chrisondra LaMone and Savannah Uentillie were both able to perform during a Radmilla Cody concert in Shiprock. Cody is an award-winning Navajo singer. A year ago, neither of the girls played the piano.

Kruse said when one student learns something, other students want to do the same thing. Often, she will have her students teaching each other.

While the students have had opportunities to play at assemblies throughout the year, Kruse often has so many students lined up to play that there isn't enough time for everyone to perform.

Kruse, who has been teaching piano for 27 years and was classically trained in Russia, said one of the her favorite things about the club is seeing the results of her labor and the joy that music brings these children.

Hannah Grover can be reached at hgrover@daily-times.com; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter @hmgrover