THAWZEN Moments: Autoethnographic piano teaching and learning stories

by Jeeyeon Ryu (Yorkville University)

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This anthology of autoethnographic stories is an extraordinary collection of creative stories showcasing the ‘epiphanies’ that come from the depth and richness of storytelling. And yet there is more. It is also a collection of ‘epiphonies’ as music itself tells stories that rivet us to new levels of insight. It is an astounding collection to those of us who remember learning to play piano in quite different ways. What is shared here is a creative world of the rich potential of learning to play with children while also learning alongside children. It is an absolute delight to the senses and to the imagination! While focusing on music, it is feast for the senses as poetry, visual art and sound come together, teaching the reader of the importance for all the arts as a support to learning music. This is a remarkable contribution to a field that needs to embrace the importance of learning through play, even in music!

Rita L. Irwin, Ed.D.
Distinguished University Scholar
Professor, Art Education
The University of British Columbia

There are more than a “thawzen” reasons to read the wonderful book you have in your hands. Jeeyeon Ryu’s stories are imaginatively and thoughtfully crafted, based on real life experiences of a brilliant piano pedagogue and her learners. By far, this is the most important book of the 21st century written about any form of pedagogy and young children. Drawing from creative ideas gleaned from learning stories, Dr. Ryu’s beautiful spirit resonates beyond the piano studio to capture ‘ordinary moments’ of learning and teaching that are an inspiration for all educators. Early childhood educators and parents would learn a great deal from Jeeyeon’s sincere, caring, child-centered approach to learning and teaching. This book is a must-read, treasure trove of accessible research—not only for parents and caregivers interested in finding ‘great’ teachers for their child—but for anyone who intends to teach piano, music in general, or any subject in the curriculum. Written in a meaningful, sensitive and humanistic manner, our world would be a better place if all teachers, across the curriculum, genuinely enacted Dr. Ryu’s innovatively artful, pedagogical processes.

Dr. Peter Gouzouasis
Professor, Music Education
The University of British Columbia

THAWZEN Moments: Autoethnographic Piano Teaching and Learning Stories is a collection of 46 vignettes, digitally edited photographs, poems, and reflective-reflexive narratives about children’s imaginative, creative, and magical lifeworlds of exploring music and piano playing.
There are many ways of learning to play the piano, THAWZEN different ways of re/imagining music. There are many stories to share with you, never-ending questions to explore together. The stories included in this book are our happy piano play, our shared musical journeys in re/creating more meaningful and joyful piano teaching and learning experiences.

Ellyn Lyle, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor, School of Education and Health
Cape Breton University
Notes of Gratitude
Musical Words | Worlds
AUTO: Thinking of Stories
Autoethnographic storytelling
Thinking of, with, and about stories
From Little Buddha to THAWZEN
Codetta: Stories that follow
ETHNO: Thinking with Stories
Moments of Play
Seashells + one lost tooth
Little butterflies
Lion in the piano
Duck of York
Old McDinosaurous
One more Mario please
Drawing music
Shades of pink
Yellow baton
Eyeball song
Fermata I: Moments of play
Poem I: Musical babbles
Moments of Joy
(Chocolate) eggs
Pink and purple keys
Rice crackers
Backward xylophone
A little Budgie
Five hungry friends
Seven princesses
Red scarf
Ballerina's fingers
60 beans of coffee + macaroni
Music math
Fermata II: Moments of joy
Poem II: Beauty in this world
Moments of Hope
One day
Begin again
My way
Mysterious notes
Secret pocket
Waste of time
4:30 pm
(Lost) blue monkey(s)
Apple in the sun
Beautiful mistakes
Tears and smiles
Fermata III: Moments of hope
Poem III: One tear one smile
Moments of Wonder
Snake, swing, caterpillar, and more
Mr. Alberti in Alberta
Harmonic like Harmonix
Smiley signs
Sharp for smart
The real storm
Mama and baby seahorse
14 new ways of playing the piano
Cyclops eye
5 ½ notes and 6 petals of daffodil
Fermata IV: Moments of wonder
Poem IV: Ever-lasting inspirations
GRAPHY: Thinking about Stories
Toward piano teachers’ autoethnographies
Autoethnography as living pedagogy
Piano pedagogy as im/promptu
Piano curriculum as beautiful noise
Coda: THAWZEN | 1000+ ways of creative piano play
Poem V: Piano playing is

Jeeyeon Ryu, Ph.D., is a pianist, teacher, and researcher who has been deeply dedicated to the arts and education for more than 20 years. She loves all things creative, including piano improvisation, photography, poetry, storytelling, and videography. Inspired by a variety of artistic genres, she enjoys using autoethnography, a/r/tography, and poetic inquiry to explore artful, reflexive ways of teaching, learning, research, and writing. Jeeyeon’s scholarly interests and publications include themes and variations related to arts-informed pedagogies, praxis and teacher education, music education, and lived/living curricular practice. Currently, she is appointed as Interim Associate Dean (General Education) at Yorkville University.

Early childhood; music education; piano pedagogy; piano teacher; teacher stories; autoethnography; vignettes; piano lessons

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

THAWZEN Moments: Autoethnographic piano teaching and learning stories





Number of pages


Physical size



44 Color

Publication date

July 2024