Dr. Elmer Heerema, CSUN professor and director of the University Chorus, actually retired about five years ago. He decided to stay on as a part-time faculty member at CSUN through the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP), and his students are happy that he did so.
“It was the greatest experience to come to CSUN and have this awesome teacher,” said sophomore music industry major Sophia Recalde, who added, “I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to be taught under him.”
Recalde had never played the piano before coming to CSUN and was appreciative of Heerema’s patience and sincerity.
“He doesn’t make you feel one bit that you cannot do it,” Recalde said.
Heerema said that he works at trying to understand where his students are coming from.
“They need patience. If we don’t give them patience they develop anxieties ? and we start working backwards,” said Heerema.
According to the music department, Heerema obtained his doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Southern California.
He has been at CSUN since 1970, and for those 36 years has taught such subjects as piano and piano ensemble, along with conducting the University Chorus.
“I really loved what I did the whole time,” said Heerema.
Deciding to stay as a part-time faculty member was a way for Heerema to leave gradually. Otherwise, he said it would have been a shock for him.
He regards teaching and helping students accomplish their goals as a gift and said, “(There is) so much I’m going to miss about it.”
Sophomore classical guitar performance major Matt Peters has taken two semesters of piano with Heerema.
“He tailors the lesson plan to fit the individual,” said Peters.
Peters also participated in the University Chorus his freshman year and said that he does not know how he would feel taking the course again if Heerema was not there.
Before coming to CSUN, Heerema was the Director of Professional Studies at the New School for Music Study, located in New Jersey.
Heerema said he moved to California because he likes the area and its proximity to Los Angeles.
“So many opportunities are here,” Heerema said, who later added that he thinks that is why CSUN has such good students in attendance.
Dane Leon, a senior music industry major, believes Heerema sincerely pushes his students to do their best, and said that he feels lucky to have studied with Heerema.
Even though Heerema’s classes started at eight in the morning, Leon said, “For me, it was worth it.”
Heerema is also the author of a piano book for adults called “Progressive Class Piano,” which was published in 1980 and is still selling nationally.
“Every so often a student will come to CSUN and say, ‘Oh, we used that book at my school,'” said Heerema, who said he is grateful to know that people find his book useful.
Now that he is retiring officially at the end of this semester, Heerema plans to travel with his wife, spend time with his grandchildren and garden more.
“I’m also getting more serious about golf,” said Heerema.
Jen Balao can be reached at email@example.com.