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School of Music

Faculty and Staff

Sara M. Ernst

Title: Associate Professor / Piano and Piano Pedagogy
School of Music
Phone: 803-777-1688

Room 229


Piano Pedagogy at USC


Sara M. Ernst, PhD, NCTM, is an active piano pedagogue, teacher of all ages, and pianist, and serves as Associate Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to her position at UofSC, she worked at the New School for Music Study in New Jersey as the Administrative Director and an instructor of piano lessons and group classes. Dr. Ernst has taught at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan and piano and piano pedagogy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her teaching was honored with a campus-wide Graduate Teaching Award at the University of Oklahoma and with the Studio Fellowship Award from the Music Teachers National Association.

Dr. Ernst received a PhD in music education with an emphasis in piano pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma. She completed her dissertation on the teaching philosophy of Mr. Marvin Blickenstaff, a widely admired piano teacher. Her other degrees are from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Her former piano and piano pedagogy teachers include Jane Magrath, Barbara Fast, Karen Larvick, and John Strauss.

Dr. Ernst's research in piano pedagogy includes investigating teaching effectiveness, the use of language in instruction, and successful parent-teacher interactions. In addition, she frequently explores pedagogical music of the 20th and 21st centuries and examines the pacing of instruction through the intermediate years. Her presentations have been featured at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, regional conferences of the College Music Society, and many state and local conferences.

She is an adjudicator for the Music Development Program as a member of the College of Examiners of the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto). In addition, Dr. Ernst has served as an anthology and syllabus reviewer for the Royal Conservatory of Music and a reviewer for the American Music Teacher and Clavier Companion. She also serves on the committee for the young professional and pedagogy student of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy.


PhD, Music Education with an Emphasis in Piano Pedagogy, University of Oklahoma
MM, Piano Pedagogy, University of Missouri
BA, Music and Mathematics, Luther College

Select Publications:

  • Cultivating a Tenacious Teaching Spirit, American Music Teacher, in press
  • Planning for Progressive Growth in the Intermediate Years, Proceedings of the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy, in press, co-authored with faculty of the New School for Music Study
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Piano Assignments,, October 2012
  • The Legacy of Master Piano Teacher Marvin Blickenstaff: His Pedagogy and Philosophy, PhD Dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 2012
  • Improving Your Teaching Effectiveness, Proceedings of the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy, 2011
  • Review of The Music Tree, Clavier Companion, May/June 2010

Joined the USC School of Music in Fall 2013

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.