Northeastern Nevada Piano Festival winners

About 34 piano students competed in the first Northeastern Nevada Piano Festival at the Elko Convention Center on March 3. From left: organizer and piano teacher Cat Phillips; first place winner Justin Timmel; second place winner Liberty Johnson; third place winner Stephen Hutnyak; fourth place winner Josh Simon, and organizer and piano teacher Holly Memmott.  

ELKO – About 34 piano students performed in the first Northeastern Nevada Piano Festival March 3 at the Elko Convention Center

Youth from Elko, Spring Creek and Wells, under the guidance of seven piano teachers, participated in Saturday’s event. Each student performed two pieces from memory; one classical and one of their choice.

Two judges evaluated the students on accuracy of notes, rhythm, temp, memorization, technique, interpretation, posture and stage presence.

“Each participant was judged against their music, not against each other,” said organizer and piano teacher Cat Phillips.

Justin Timmel of Spring Creek won first place and $100. Liberty Johnson of Wells won second place and $50. Stephen Hutnyak of Spring Creek won third place and $25. Josh Simon of Spring Creek won fourth place and $15.

Each student had the opportunity to earn 40 points. Out of the 34 participants who performed on Saturday, 10 students at level 5 and above qualified to perform in the final round by earning more than 37 points.

The points that are earned in MTNA performances are accumulated to earn a gold cup trophy after 100 points are reached, which could take up to 3 years because they can only accumulate 40 per year for the two songs that they play , Phillips said.

The event was organized by piano teachers Holly Memmott of Elko, and Heather Gull and Phillips of Spring Creek.

Memmott and Phillips, members of the Music Teachers National Association, said they started thinking of way to host a local festival that would allow their students to participate in one inspired by a MNTA eFestival.

“Heather Gull has been traveling to Utah to have her sons participate in a piano festival yearly,” Phillips said. “She also had thoughts of creating a festival here.”

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After a meeting in August of 2017, the group decided to give the local festival a try, Phillips said.

“It was important for us to provide a positive, nurturing and successful experience for piano students to perform ‘away from the nest’ of the teacher’s studio and familiar performance settings. It is a step toward independence with their music,” Phillips said.

For Elko’s first piano festival of its kind, Phillips said the organizers felt Saturday’s event was “a success.”

“We have had a lot of positive and supportive comments from teachers and parents about this festival," Phillips said.

“We plan on making it an ongoing event, reaching out to more studios to participate to develop musicianship in each student.”

This was changed from an previous online version to clarify and correct details regarding the MTNA rules, regulations and its members.

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