Thank-you letters, shared with permission.
"I would not be the person I am, going to the places I am going, if it were not for you. You have taught me about dedication, humility, curiosity, strength...balance, and believing that the impossible might just be possible. I took your lessons of relaxation and applied them to my entire life, and my love for life augmented so much more because of it.
I still remember that first lesson that my mom dragged me to seven years ago. I had no idea what to expect or who's house we were driving to, but all I could hear was my mom continually saying she has found... the best teacher. That first lesson was all it took to know that I had found a phenomenal teacher.
Your continuous stream of positivity, no matter how prepared or unprepared I was, has kept me motivated and dedicated over the years, and I would not have been given the amazing opportunities that I have, if it were not for you.
-Jessie Oeff 2018 Lakewood Symphony Concerto Competition Winner, 2017 Schmitt/Colorado Symphony Concerto Competition Winner, 2017 Broomfield Symphony Concerto Competition Winner, solo awards...
A college essay used for her successful admission to Stanford University.
Piano: my deepest hatred and greatest joy encompassed by one word. With this instrument, I have experienced every wavelength on the emotional spectrum. Frustration, terror, hopelessness given. Pride, giddiness, surprise of course. In many ways, my relationship with piano is that of a bad romance. It is the reason for immeasurable guilt and sacrifice, yet ultimately held together by intrinsic appreciation. Our ten year anniversary will be this April. Even as a current senior in high school, I can safely assume that this romance is, and will be, one of the longest and most meaningful relationships of my lifetime.
My mom arranged the first date when she brought home a glorious Yamaha baby grand one afternoon. I was seven at the time, and the instrument resembled a massive, reflective art installment in the living room. That was enough to convince me into playing. My first lesson was a week later: the inception of our relationship.
Unfortunately, I quickly learned to hate practicing. By dedicating three hours a day to piano, I prepared for rounds upon rounds of competitions with a private instructor who praised my musicality yet hammered exclusively physical technique. A few victorious competitions indicated potential but destroyed passion in the process. I was caught in this abusive relationship for about five years. Hours of exhausting practice demolished my initial interest, but I continued purely out of obligation. A few years passed, and only a diagnosis with depression forced a necessary change in my practicing habits. I faced a catastrophic breakup with piano.
I began studying with a new instructor, Hsing-ay. With disclosure on my past piano experience, she created an entirely new perspective on musical studies. Hsing-ay nurtured my musicality and exposed me to aspects of piano I had never considered before. I explored concepts that were simple, such as breathing; complex, such as harmonic voicing; technical, such as tone manipulation; and lyrical, such as phrase lengthening. Competitions became opportunities rather than assessments. The nuances in musical phrase — hidden harmonic colors, sweeping melodies, conversation between left and right hand — became beautifully apparent in every hour of practice. My relationship with piano blossomed, and my passion for the art has increased exponentially since.
Nearing the conclusion of my high school studies with this instrument, piano and I emerge as battered lovers. The Yamaha baby grand had lost some of its luster, and several of its keys are perpetually out of tune. As for me, I have matured tremendously. These ten years have given me an array of unforgettable memories, from bitter apathy to triumphant delight. Yet through the inevitable changes of my posthigh school involvement, I am confident that some parts will never change: scales will still need refining, chords will still require analysis, and I will always have a grateful, paramount appreciation for piano. -Joanna MTNA district winner in both solo and concerto divisions