Teresa Layssard Thomason, a 1991 graduate of Louisiana Christian University (formerly Louisiana College), has been named Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow. She received the award March 27 in Reno, Nevada.
Thomason, of Alexandria, has been well-known in the Central Louisiana music community for decades and has earned local and state accolades for her piano skills.
Now, she has earned national recognition for her amazing and long-standing work in the music teaching field.
The MTNA Foundation Fellow is given to people who have been important to the organization and who have made outstanding contributions for their years of service.
“When they called me, I was speechless,” she said of the notification by University of Louisiana – Lafayette Prof. Chan Kiat Lim, the current president of Louisiana Music Teachers Association.
Thomason has been teaching piano at Country Day School in Alexandria since 1992 and at Calvary Baptist Conservatory of Music since 1995. Her students have ranged in age from Pre-K4 through high school—with a few adults over the years, as well.
Laura Beth Mears, of Pineville, has been a student of Thomason for seven years.
“Mrs. Teresa has been an incredible piano teacher for me,” Mears said. “She gave me a great foundation in music theory and taught me the discipline of practicing daily. Then, she encouraged me to continue to love playing piano by helping me choose great songs to play at Sonatina Festivals, Hymn festivals, District competitions and State Piano Rally. I know that her influence and expertise have exposed the gift that has been given to me by God. I have truly enjoyed having a sister in Christ sit beside me for hours, training me to use this gift. Mrs. Teresa is a blessing in my life.
Over the years, Thomason said students have changed somewhat, and fewer want to spend the time it takes practicing to really excel at piano.
“With technology, young people want instant gratification, and the idea of having to practice, students have lots of excuses,” she said. “But I have some very good students that make up for it.”
She’s been teaching piano since she herself was a teenager and served as church pianist at Central Baptist Church in Spring Hill throughout high school. In fact, it was this that led her to LCU.
“A man in our church gave me a cash scholarship to go to LC,” Thomason said. “Joe Maher—he had sponsored a lot of other students.”
Thomason began college in the fall of 1971 and met beloved LC piano instructor Mary Ann Crump.
She also met Tim Thomason through her third cousin, Rita Welch, also a student at the time.
“My mother wanted me to find a ministerial student, but he was a psychology/sociology major,” she said. “He wore boots and had long hair, but after the meal with my family, he took his plate to the sink, and it won my mother over.”
The two were married in 1973, and Thomason left school to go to work teaching piano and to start a family.
“Twenty years after I started, I graduated from Louisiana College in 1991,” she said. “I tell everyone I was a slow learner. And Mary Ann Crump—she said she wasn’t going to retire until I finished my degree.”
Over the years, Thomason has continually worked in the music field.
“I had as many as 70 students a week in my prime,” she said.
One need only mention a CenLa surname, and Thomason has taught someone in the family.
Thomason has taught many doctors’ children—and has taught children who have gone on to become doctors themselves. Two of her former pupils were Louisiana Junior Misses.
Alexandria orthodontist Dr. Heather Badeaux Moylan said Thomason made a major impact on her life.
“Mrs. Teresa taught me piano for 10 years,” Moylan said. “She was an incredibly patient, kind and encouraging teacher. She taught me persistence and discipline in pursuit of a goal, and those traits have made a huge difference in my life. I am forever grateful for her mentorship.”
She worked for the Louisiana Baptist Convention for 37 years as keyboard consultant and started the State Hymn-Playing Festival in 1979 and the State Piano Festival to provide scholarships for students in 1985.
The LBC started the Teresa Thomason Keyboard Scholarship in 2007 to honor the longtime music educator, and she said $17,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to date.
Thomason has been involved at every level of music education and has served in numerous volunteer capacities, as well, serving as the State Rally piano chair for 20 years and on the executive board of the Louisiana Music Teachers Association for eight years.