Student pianist place top three in sonata competition

By Keyla Lopez

Three students succeeded in placing in the top three in a piano sonata competition sponsored by the California Association of Professional Music Teachers March 10.

Elans Jerome de los Santos, Chun M. Jeremy Lee, and Hui-Chi Melody Lin, who are under the instruction of Lucy Nargizyan in the applied music program at East Los Angeles College, placed first, second and third, respectively, in the competition. De los Santos, a native of Bell Flower who has been playing since he was four years old, placed first with his performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7. Lee, from Hong Kong, is fairly new as he started playing piano later in his life. He has only been playing for roughly three and a half years and came in second place with his performance of Haydn’s Sonata in D-major.

Lin, originally from Taiwan, has been playing since the age of six and placed third with her performance of Beethoven Op. 109. The Competition, which took place at Keyboard Concepts – Van Nuys, in Sherman Oaks, was based on sonatas (generic pieces composed for one or more solo instruments from a classical piece) and was entered by over 55 participants in different categories and age groups. There were two judges who judged the competition, who also provided comments to each participant, which can only benefit the participant by providing feedback on what they did well in and in what needed improvement. Winners also walked away with a small cash prize.

Lee, who has the least piano experience of the three, said his interest in playing piano sparked after listening to various recordings.  He wanted to learn to play so that one day people would be listening to him. De los Santos believes that music is not only a form of art, but also a great creative outlet to have in the world we live in. “It relieves a lot of pressure,” De los Santos said. “And you can interpret your own way of how it’s supposed to sound.” Music also allows you to express yourself. “If you play with passion and excitement, you can say so much more with music than you can with words,” Nargizyan said.

“My favorite thing about playing piano is getting to share my love of piano music with my family and friends,” Lin said.  Nargizyan, a member of CAPMT, a teacher’s organization of over 1000 members who teach throughout the state in private and public schools, conservatories, independent studios, colleges and universities, first heard about the competition in January. The California Association of Professional Music Teachers is the California affiliated with the Music Teachers National Association Inc. Their purpose is to advance the value of music studies and music-making to society while supporting the careers and professionalism of teachers of music.

There is a district for every county throughout the state.  ELAC falls within district nine, which covers surrounding colleges as well, while district three covers the west side of the Los Angeles County. At the beginning of the semester, Nargizyan picked these three students to enter the competition. “Out of all my students, I felt these three had the talent, experience and potential to benefit from this competition,” Nargizyan said. This was the first competition for both Lee and De los Santos, and second for Lin, who participated last semester and finished second place.

The students reveal that while nerves were present before the competition, the nerves turned into passion and excitement when they played.  They consider it a good thing to feel something before and during the competition because with no emotion present, then there is really nothing there and the performance would come out cold and without character. “My favorite thing about teaching is the fact that my students are so talented and have so much potential. They’re very devoted and determined to achieve excellence. They are very focused, and that’s a great quality to have,” Nargizyan said.

The students said that their favorite part of the competition was the fact that they were able to get more performance experience. “I liked that this gives us an opportunity to gain experience outside of school. It’s a good way to challenge us because it takes us out of our comfort zone that comes from just performing within our school,” Lee said. De los Santos, Lin and Lee, who each practice a handful of hours a day, credit the majority of their success to the encouragement and support they receive from Nargizyan.

They believe that anyone can achieve great things with hard work, dedication and the support from a teacher that truly cares about your success. Nargizyan is currently in the planning stages of getting her students registered to participate in another competition coming up in May.

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