“I think that’s what surprised me the most about Greensboro is that there are all of these beautiful—just stunning— nature areas. Places where you can escape and enjoy nature.”
Professor Annie Jeng grew up in the Washington, DC area and has lived in New York and Michigan. She came to UNCG four years ago to teach Piano and Piano Pedagogy in the School of Music. She says she was never much of an outdoorsy person, but COVID hit not long after her arrival in North Carolina:
“Suddenly, everyone was hitting the great outdoors, and I had a little more time. I started exploring the trails and greenways. I bought a kayak and a paddle board, and I hit the lakes. When the weather’s nice one of my favorite things to do is to take my kayak out to Lake Brandt and hang out there on the water or hike along the trails.”
Jeng also found that she didn’t have to travel far to enjoy the state’s mountains and coastal areas:
“I love Hanging Rock State Park, which is less than an hour away. You can drive just about an hour more and be in Boone, which is a very cool mountain college town. Heading East out of Greensboro, you can make it to Wilmington in about three hours and check out the beaches there. That’s really lovely, too. Being in Greensboro really is ‘the best of both worlds.’”
Jeng says she’s enjoyed watching the food scene really take off with the number of restaurants and breweries that have opened their doors since she moved here. She’s found a way to take her excitement over new brewpubs, her newfound love of being outdoors, and her passion for teaching and put them all together in the form of an event she came up with called Brews-keys.
“Brews-keys is a little word play based on the fact we’re playing the piano at a brewery. It started during the pandemic when my students were craving performance
opportunities with live audiences. We’d been doing so much recording and live-streaming because we were very limited in terms of how many people we could have in our recital halls.”
So, Jeng packed up a grand piano for a trip to Oden Brewing Company, a pub within walking distance of campus, where her students played for Sunday afternoon patrons:
“It’s been an amazing place to gather community—families, pets, all demographics. Oden has an outdoor stage that I’d been eyeing. They already had a regular audience who would come for a rock or pop band. I thought it would be a lovely surprise to hear our students and faculty playing an acoustic piano, and it’s been a big hit!”
Jeng has since discontinued the concerts at Oden because moving a piano is costly, and now the students perform Brews-keys at another local watering hole, Double Oaks Bed & Breakfast.
“We love playing and bringing music to the community. I love that there are so many places in Greensboro for things like this to take place. I never imagined I’d wind up somewhere like Greensboro, but I’ve grown to love it so much. There’s this small town vibe, but there are so many things happening.”
Jeng adds: “Here’s another way you can tell this is a great place to be. When my international students from China talk to me about their lives here, that is when I realize how wonderful it is. When people from a very different culture feel happy and comfortable here, then I know it’s a really wonderful place to live.”
Story by Terri W. Relos
Photos provide by Annie Jeng