“This is a great day, it’s an overdue day!”
These are the words of Heath Jones, a music professor at Oklahoma Christian University, who spoke at last Tuesday’s Paula Hutton Piano Lab dedication. Made possible by donations from Oklahoma Christian’s Friends of Music, the piano lab has been named in honor of Paula Hutton, a now semi-retired associate professor of music.
Hutton has taught in the Oklahoma Christian Music Department for over 30 years and said she is thrilled for the new piano lab.
‘I’m so humbled,” Hutton said. “It’s been very needed.”
The new Paula Hutton Piano Lab consists of 15 pianos and is a complete fusion of music and technology, with access to apps for practicing and playing piano. Hutton said she appreciates it deeply.
I’ve enjoyed getting to use the new lab,” Hutton said. “It’s been a learning curve but I’ve got good tech support and it’s nice when I can get it to work. It certainly is an enticement to stay.”
Teaching piano for almost 50 years, Hutton said teaching others about music feeds her and brings art to her life.
“In all my years at Oklahoma Christian, I’ve always just wanted to teach piano,” Hutton said. “Even when I was raising kids I would be holding a baby and teaching piano. It was meaningful to me, it was art. It fed some part of me. It still is. People learn a lot about themselves through music and it’s a skill that can take you through life. Teaching piano, I feel like I’m tapping into something essential.”
Hutton said this love for teaching piano comes from two sources: a love for music and her students.
“Music is a core human experience and all music has something to say, often when we don’t have the words to say it,” Hutton said. “I learn so much that’s valuable from every student. I love the connection that music makes between students and myself. It’s a passionate relationship, with music being the passion.”
Hutton’s passion for both music and teaching was noted by President John deSteiger at the dedication, who said Oklahoma Christian’s campus had been shaped by Hutton’s presence.
“There have been memories left and the lives have been changed, and by that count, Oklahoma Christian is a very special place because we’ve got Paula Hutton at our college,” deSteiguer said. “It is a real joy, Paula, to have a part of our campus that honors you because you have honored us for years and years.”
An appreciation for music and a passion for learning is what Hutton hopes her Oklahoma Christian legacy will be.
“Any teacher wants to implant the love of learning. They want students to have a lifetime of learning. Music reflects where we are as humans as well as being commanded by God.”
During the dedication, Jones also spoke to Hutton’s legacy, and how she encourages others to love music.
“When you have a place where people work here for decades, you know it’s an incredible place,” Jones said. “And it’s because of people like Dr. Paula Hutton that makes this place what it is. They go the extra mile, they spend time with you, they share their love of music and inspire you to stay in this field.”
As Hutton engages in the process of leaving Oklahoma Christian, she has a final message for the students, faculty and staff she leaves behind.
“Go ahead and invest yourself fully into learning,” Hutton said. “Put your full effort and integrity into it because if you give it your best, you will be the benefactor.”
At the dedication, deSteiguer concluded by thanking Hutton for the contributions she has made to Oklahoma Christian and sent her off with well wishes.
“God bless you, congratulations and thank you for everything,” deSteiguer said.