The Wirth Center for the Performing Arts is an institution of accomplishment and adaptation. Their education possibilities span the spectrum of difficulty, with many students learning to perform, arrange, or compose their personal favorite type of music, to students competing on state and national level in concerto competitions and orchestra auditions, all the way to several students who have gone on to study at the Juilliard School of Music. The genres taught are as diverse as the skill levels, with teachers specializing in classical music, pop and rock music, and alternative, blues, and various ethnic styles. Christopher Goering has been a steady part of the Wirth Center for the last 15 years as a piano instructor and for the last 5 years as the Executive Director.
A quick conversation with Chris will show how deeply the love of music resides within him. While he didn’t begin piano lessons until the age of six, he’s always been immersed in music. His mother, a piano teacher as well, had students in her home studio for as long as he could remember, their work and music filled the home. For years, Chris and his 6 siblings would learn and practice their music together. When Chris was 14, he began teaching beginner piano lessons in his mom’s studio. When he entered high school, he began receiving instruction at the Wirth Center in St. Cloud. There he studied with both Dr. Ann Duhamel and Dr. Paul Wirth, whose unique, inspiring, and personable teaching styles would both inspire Chris as well as shape his own teaching style down the road.
After graduating from high school, Chris began offering piano lessons himself at the Wirth Center. He also started classes at St. Cloud State University working towards a bachelor’s degree in Music Composition and Theory. Taking the maximum allowed credits on many semesters as well as between-semester sessions and summer courses, he cruised through studies and graduated at age 20. As packed as that schedule sounds, he was teaching music during those years as well, an activity he began to realize was the part he enjoyed the most. After completing his undergraduate studies, he continued his education and completed his Masters in Piano Pedagogy, also at St. Cloud State University.
No doubt his education helped shape him to be the right person for the job as the Wirth Center’s Executive Director and one of the main piano teachers, yet there are other elements which make him perfect for the position, such as his boundless energy for all thing’s music, especially instruction. On the subject, he happily stated “this is what I am going to be doing forever.” Even though many artists experience a struggle balancing organization and communication with their artistic and creative talents, Chris seamlessly integrates both to the benefit of the Wirth Center and his students. As a former student of the school himself, Chris has a unique perspective on many of the concerts and camps. Often, he will walk through the center, noting the stairs he used to climb with his backpack full of piano books, or the studios where he would learn and rehearse with his teachers. If you had asked him then if he thought he would one day be working in a leadership position within the school, he would have probably guessed “no.” His wonderment for his own story translates into curiosity for his students at the Wirth Center. As he teaches each student, he likes to imagine “will this student be teaching here in a decade? Will they be leading our school in the future?”
Just as we all know life is a journey and not a destination, the Wirth Center has always emphasized the personal enjoyment and development of good technique within all its students. Such is the tradition of Dr. Wirth himself who, as Chris recounts, would train his students with a very personable approach, helping students learn music they love while always emphasizing a relaxed, gravity-based approach to playing the piano. The Wirth Center is still well known for its advanced classical education, which Goering describes as the ‘building blocks’ of all styles of music, but today it also caters to the diverse interests of more modern students. Many students want to learn how to write songs themselves, arrange songs in their own style, and play modern pop and rock genres. The school has responded to the growing interests in the community by adding several new teachers for guitar, bass, trap set, and ukulele, as well as jam Band and rock music classes. In the future, they anticipate adding even more ensemble classes so that students can play together and inspire one another as well.
Such constant progression in the school mirror’s Chris’ own explorations. Besides piano, he also sings and plays the ukulele and bass guitar. Chris recently bought a digital audio workstation as well, fitting in some time to compose and arrange music as he used to do regularly in college. Though he’s challenged to find time to write as much music as he’d like, his musical endeavors certainly compliment the Wirth Center’s own evolving capacities. Indeed, with Chris Goering at the helm, the future of the Wirth Center appears as bright as it is broad.