Piano Performers

Grace Guo and Gracelyn Zheng, both 8 years old, practice their performance piece at piano teacher Alla Latchininsky’s studio to prepare for the Colossal Keyboard event at Laramie High School on Saturday. Guo and Zheng are two of over 60 piano students that will be performing.

The Laramie High School Auditorium will be filled with the sound of music on Saturday from not just one, but four grand pianos.

At the Colossal Keyboard Concert, Laramie piano students will play side-by-side, with up to two students per piano, giving the children a chance to socialize with other local music students and learn how to play in an ensemble.

“It’s such good experience for a young musician to play in ensemble with other musicians, to listen to them, to follow the conductor and play together,” said Cindy Peterson, president of the Wyoming Music Teachers Association.

The concert will bring together around 60 piano students who take private lessons in Laramie, ranging in age from 7-17 years old. Some students will play in a group of eight, while others will play in a group of four, but there will always be at least one person per piano. For some pieces, as many as eight students will be playing simultaneously.

Alla Latchininsky, one of around 10 piano teachers with students participating in the event, said the “unusual event” was a great way to make learning the instrument a more social experience.

“Piano is [a] very individual instrument,” Latchininsky said. “People think sometimes that it’s not orchestra and it’s not socialized, but we kind of prove different, that it’s socialized with students. These kinds of events not a lot of people are doing, I think is pretty unique in the city of Laramie.”

Peterson said planning for the concert began in August with music selections, and the students have been spending time practicing with their individual piano teachers. To ensure up to eight children play the same piece on four pianos at the same pace, the teachers have a little trick.

“Within music we have such a thing as metronome markings to set a precise tempo,” Peterson said. “They came to the first rehearsal — which was [Feb. 2] — to practice, and they were very well prepared, but I think in particular because we had assigned a metronome marking, they were really ready to play right at that tempo all together.”

The event is hosted by the Laramie Music Teacher’s Association, a subset of the Wyoming Music Teachers Association. Peterson said while the Colossal Keyboard event is only held every two-three years, the LMTA and WMTA frequently host events and concerts to bring students and teachers together. The LMTA hosts as many as four performance events a year, Peterson said, but most feature solo performances in addition to group performances.

“We have monthly meetings and plan these things, and encourage each other and do little workshops together,” Peterson said.

The Colossal Keyboard Concert’s grand finale, Pistol Pete’s Piano Posse Rides Again, was composed by a Utah composer specifically for Wyoming music students, Peterson said. She added it was first premiered at the most recent WMTA conference.

“It will be our finale number, with eight upper-intermediate students all playing together,” Peterson said. “It’s a blast, it’s fast and it’s powerful.”

Admission to the event is free, and the pianos are provided by Westfahl’s Piano Store on Third Street.

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