Class Act: Bruce Lin’s ‘joy is beyond words’ when his students succeed
Any pianist would have been hard-pressed to squeeze an entire rendition of Chopin’s Minute Waltz into the fleeting interval between Dr. Bruce Lin’s arrival at Amarillo College and when he actually began powerfully impacting students.
As segues go, it was Flight-of-the-Bumblebee seamless.
Seriously though, Lin hit the ground running at AC, and there is no denying his meteoric rise since joining the music faculty in 2020; for in two short years the adroit pianist soared to the rank of assistant professor and captured the College’s most prestigious faculty accolade, the John F. Mead Faculty Excellence Award.
Lin, who previously served on the music faculties at Texas Lutheran University and the University of Incarnate Word, had no sooner unpacked his belongings in Amarillo than he began engaging with students and prioritizing their success.
“Working with AC students is an honor and a privilege,” said Lin, who serves as director of piano at AC. “I love it here. I care about my students and want to be the person they come to when they have trouble – in school or in life.
“I might not have all the answers, but I will help them find resources that can help. When I see them succeed, the joy is beyond words.”
Born in Taiwan and raised in Canada, where his parents and two older brothers reside still, Lin took his first piano lesson at age 8. A decade later, he was off to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to pursue a bachelor’s degree, the first of three degrees he has attained in piano performance; he earned his master’s degree at Rider University in 2008, and he completed his doctoral degree in 2015 at West Virginia University.
“Looking back, I wouldn’t call myself a prodigy or even particularly gifted, but I just enjoy playing the piano,” Lin modestly explained. “I enjoy the process of learning, tying to learn what the composer’s trying to say.
“I like a challenging piece of music, and in some ways, because I have spent so much time practicing alone, I think of music, at least for me, as a way to escape from reality for a while – to contemplate where I am and what I’m doing.”
Lin, who made his first orchestral appearance with the West Coast Symphony in 2002, has given recitals and delivered lectures and masterclasses for audiences from Canada to China and throughout the U.S., and so he practices quite a lot.
Yet when he emerges from the solitude necessary for honing his craft, Lin is anything but a loner, a fact that’s apparent to his students from the get-go.
“He genuinely cares about his students and wants to get to know who they are as people,” one pupil wrote in nominating Lin for the Mead Award. “He pours his heart and soul into his performances, work, and relationships.”
Lin was swift upon his arrival at AC to immerse himself in the College’s Teaching for Transformation Institute (TTI). In it he took part in a series of professional learning workshops designed to equip new faculty with tools to optimally remove barriers to student success.
“This not only increases my own worth,” Lin says, “but it also adds to AC’s value.”
Lin is particularly captivated by the pedagogy of Real Talk, which the TTI introduced to increase student engagement. Through Real Talk faculty introduce topics and concepts in ways students can relate to on a personal level. Lin used Real Talk to embed stimulating questions in his music history class, like which pieces of music students would like to have played at their funerals, and why.
“Instead of having my students learn superficial facts about certain composers,” says Lin, “I ask them to contemplate whether or not they would make some of the same life decisions the great composers they are studying are known to have made. It opens up the discussion and engages students a lot more, gets them thinking and expressing their opinions.
“The feedback I get is ‘I didn’t have to memorize a lot of stuff, but I learned a lot.’”
Lin, who is credited with spearheading the highly successful Art Force Piano Series at AC, which attracts exceptional talent to perform popular free concerts that are open to the public – in which he himself has occasionally been featured – also has infused new life into AC’s Music Maker’s Club. Under his tutelage, the music-student club visits and performs for area senior citizens, and they get together for social activities such as bowling or catching a movie.
A devotee of pickleball, Lin uses the lively paddle sport to relieve stress and get plenty of exercise. “Outside of work, you can probably find me on the pickleball court,” he said. “The pickleball community in Amarillo is so loving and sweet. I’ve made many friends there.”
Although he is a classically trained pianist, Lin enjoys a wide range of music and listens to a lot of jazz and pop. But he says Mozart will always be his cup of tea.
“If I was being sent to a deserted island and could only bring one piece of music, it would probably be Mozart,” he said.