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February 2, 2023

Student Spotlight: Susan Dantoni’23 (Piano)

Susan Dantoni photo

“When I’m playing piano and make a mistake, I can tell myself, “It’s not a matter of life or death.” That’s not the case when I’m working as a physician.”

Susan Dantoni, M.D. currently enjoys a successful career as a physician. However, in 2020, she returned to school to heighten her skills as a pianist. Read on to learn why.

What brought you to Roberts?

In 2017, I hurt my Achilles tendon. I was out of work for two years and needed something I could do without standing.

So, I got back into piano!

My daughter’s summer camp needed an accompanist, so they asked me to help. I really enjoyed myself. I started getting booked by more and more theater shows as an accompanist. I was even asked to accompany Hochstein students and got more advanced that way.

However, one day, I encountered a piece of music I couldn’t play. It was too hard. That’s when I met Professor Werner. I studied with him for two years. One day, I told him, “I wish I had gone to music school.”

He told me, “Well, we’re not getting any younger. I work with Roberts… why don’t you audition for their music program?”

And that’s what brought me to Roberts.

Has your training as a doctor impacted the way you approach earning this degree?

Oh, absolutely. When I’m playing piano and make a mistake, I can tell myself, “It’s not a matter of life or death.” That’s not the case when I’m working as a physician.

So, I’m a lot calmer in my studies.

Also, my training as a doctor helps me understand that sometimes, when students act a certain way, there’s a deeper meaning. Maybe there’s something going on in his life. Sometimes, a student needs a listening ear rather than a piano instructor.

How will your Roberts education help you reach those goals? 

I have been given so many opportunities to perform since starting at Roberts.  

I no longer have any stage fright and I have improved my technique and performance skills a lot. 

I am much more confident in my playing now than I have even been in my life. I love collaborating with other music majors – it is so much more fun to play music together rather than alone.

What do you see yourself doing as a career?  

I will continue working as a physician part time but want to be on faculty at a university accompanying and working with music students. 

I love accompanying students – I don’t want to play as a soloist. I want to help students sing better.

Do you have any videos of you accompanying a student?

Yes! Here’s a video of me playing Erklönig while Ethan Kane sings. 

How has Roberts impacted your spiritual journey?  

The kindness that I have been shown is overwhelming.  I have been given support and encouragement by faculty and students alike. 

No one ever made me feel uncomfortable because I am an older non-traditional student. I have felt like I belong here.  

Who is your favorite professor and what’s one way they’ve helped you? 

My primary piano instructor Joe Werner has been my rock since I have met him.  

He treats me like any other piano student and has brought my playing up to a level I never thought possible.   

He inspires me and never makes me feel bad about myself or my playing ever.  He is absolutely a fantastic teacher and human being!  

How do you serve others?  

I have made myself available to fellow students as a sort of substitute mom I think. 

I have helped students with schoolwork, music, housing over the last three years. I have even gone in the middle of the night to get some students whose car broke down and were stranded! I have housed homeless students with nowhere to go during breaks and summers! 

I act this way because when I think of my own college-aged kids, I would want someone to treat them that way.

Here’s a photo of my family - my husband Peter, my daughter Ava, and my son, Yanni.

What advice would you give to incoming adult learners?  

Age is just a number! 

You live once and you owe it to yourself and to God to do what you were meant to do. 

If you want to go back to school or change careers, do it.  You will be older eventually but you will have a diploma and will be very proud of yourself! 

Faculty Feedback 

“Susan Dantoni is deeply committed to learning and excellence. She is a musician of depth and breadth. As a pianist, her desire to accompany is a reflection of her desire to serve others. Her joy of music and life, not to mention her unrestrained laugh, is contagious. It is no surprise that she connects well with others of all ages and inspires many.”

Daniel Barta, Professor of Music Theory and Composition 

Congratulations, Susan, for winning the 2021-2022 Presser Scholarship!

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