A record 22 young pianists competed in the Festival for Creative Pianists at Mesa State College on April 7-9. Due to the high caliber of all the participants, the judges' deliberations went into overtime. Many students excelled in various creative and repertory categories. One student was especially superb -- John Ahern, a local 18-year-old pianist, who earned a whopping total of four first prizes, including Best Colorado Pianist and Best Performance of an Original Composition. The judges were singularly impressed with John's performance of the first movement of Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata as well as his stunning rendition of a sophisticated original piece entitled "Toccata." The festival's founder and director, Arthur Houle, notes that John's compositions should be published, for they are on a par with some of the most artistic classical works in the piano repertory. Due to the generous sponsorship of Amber and Jay Seaton, the prize for original composition was increased to $500; this prize most exemplifies the creative spirit behind this unique festival. All other first prizes are $100. This means that John Ahern's four prizes netted him $800, which he plans to apply toward his higher education studies in music.
Eight other Colorado students, ranging from age 12 to 19, won first prizes: Taryn Brahmsteadt (Grand Junction), Zach Bush (Grand Junction), Lucy Colson (Grand Junction), Abigail Heaton (Fruita), Blake Leany (Fruita), Jake Mirow (Centennial), Marygrace Prinster (Grand Junction), Amy Sibert (Falcon), and Emilee Sibert (Peyton).
Eight students earned Honorable Mentions: Ellen Atkinson (Grand Junction), Lindsey Brown (Silt), Kaycee Detmers (Clifton), Jordan Haren (Fruita), Jackie Levitt (Eckert), Kate Seaton (Grand Junction), Abi Sibert (Falcon), and Breanna Wilson (Monument).
Each year one teacher is recognized for "enthusiastic commitment to fostering creativity, imagination, versatility and/or originality" in students. This year's Creative Teacher Incentive Award went to Brita Fay, an adjunct faculty pianist at Mesa State College who also runs Sera Schools, a community-based music enrichment program.