Nurture May 2016

Senior Spotlight: Sabrina Huang

Level 10 student Sabrina Huang will crown 12 years of piano study with the performance of the Mozart's Piano Concerto #20 in D minor (along with fellow Level 10 graduate Joshua Grindley). AASPA interviewed this talented high school senior about her Suzuki piano experience, her future plans, and advice for younger pianists.

Please share some background about yourself.

I am currently a senior at Northview High School. In addition to piano, I have a pretty wide range of interests. I ran cross country and track all throughout high school. I also love to take pictures, and I’m the director of photography for my school’s yearbook. I enjoy languages and I’ve studied French in school for six years. Last summer, I spent four weeks in Taiwan teaching English to elementary schoolers as a part of the AID Summer program. In my spare time, I volunteer on a farm. I rode horses when I was little and I LOVE animals!

How and when did you start your Suzuki piano training? Tell us a little about your journey to Level 10.

I began with Twinkles and Level 1 at the age of six with Zoe Schommer. Then I studied for two years with Leah Brammer, and I have studied with Ms. Robin Blankenship for the past ten years. This journey would not have been possible without her unwavering guidance and support!

Additionally, I’ve been to nearly every graduation concert over the years and have always looked up to the older kids. They seemed so much older and so poised and I was always inspired to learn the pieces they performed. It is still unreal to me that it’s my turn to graduate level 10, my turn to graduate high school.

Is there a particularly memorable experience with music or the piano that you’d like to share?

In 2010, I went to Louisville, Kentucky to participate in a friendship concert. It was one of my first times having a master class with Keiko Kawamura Sensei. There was also a giant snowstorm that took place that week, and we got over a foot of snow. Also, since I was obsessed with horses my parents took me to Churchill Downs where they hold the Kentucky Derby! It was a memorable trip, and the concert went really well. It was cool meeting other Suzuki piano students from around the country! I even met a friend from Texas with whom I exchanged letters with for a while.

What has been your favorite piece amongst the Suzuki piano repertoire and why?

I absolutely love the Italian Concerto. I remember hearing it for the first time at a graduation concert when I was seven, and I just knew I had to play it in the future. My mom burned the piece onto a CD for me and I listened to it on repeat with my Disney princess CD player for the longest time. Eight years later my goal was accomplished as I performed it for my level eight graduation concert. I worked on the piece for quite a while; it was definitely a challenge. It also took endurance to sit down and perform for almost 15 minutes straight. But it was so worth it in the end, and many of the skills I needed for that piece were also applicable to future pieces.

What are your plans beyond high school?

I will be attending Georgia Tech with an intended major of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies and an interest in business or economics. I don't plan on studying music in college, but I know piano and music in general are things I'll be able to keep with me for the rest of my life. My piano is my baby and I love knowing that I'll be able to come home and just sit down and play!

Do you have any tips or advice for AASPA students?

It's easy to get caught up in our hectic daily schedules, but it's so important to be consistent. Even if your practice session for a particular day is just to go through some spots, it's better than not touching the piano at all. But most importantly, listen to the disc. As Suzuki students especially, most of us have grown up with that being drilled into us (or so I hope!) but sometimes I am still in awe by how much of a difference listening makes to the development and improvement of learning/polishing a piece.

Click here to see Sabrina's performance of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu.

John Lemley to Emcee AASPA Spring Graduation Concert

AASPA is thrilled to welcome radio host and producer John Lemley as emcee for our Spring Graduation Concerts on June 5.  An Atlanta fixture, John is also a supporter of young musicians.

Mr. Lemley is the host and producer of Atlanta's only weekday classical radio program, John Lemley’s City Café, on AM 1690 WMLB The Voice of the Arts

Says Mr. Lemley regarding the student performers at Spivey, “These talented young musicians are proof of the Suzuki method’s success when it comes to teaching music. The love of music is not dependent on ability or talent. Not only is every child capable of learning a musical instrument – with the proper instruction and support, every child can truly excel at learning a musical instrument. Suzuki proves that ability is learned, not innate.”

Senior Profile: Alexander Patrick Tuck

AASPA applauds Alexander Patrick Tuck, who is completing 12 years of homeschooling, the last seven via Mother of Divine Grace School in Ojai, California. He is the second of four boys and lives in Acworth, Georgia.

Alex is grateful for studying piano with his fabulous teacher Robin Blankenship for over ten years, and will be graduating from Level VII this spring. His favorite composer is Frederick Chopin, and he will be performing his Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor in the June graduation concert. Alex is also preparing for a senior recital later this year.

Alex plays the saxophone in the Joyful Noise Homeschool band in Marietta and enjoys dancing, playing the guitar, listening to music, and playing with his family's four dogs. He plans to begin studying music at Kennesaw State University in fall of 2017. Congratulations, Alex!

Graduation Concerts Coming on June 5

35 graduates will perform in two concerts at Spivey Hall on June 5, including Level 10 performances by Joshua Grindley and Sabrina Huang, who will perform Piano Concerto #20 in D minor by Mozart -- 1st movement by Joshua Grindley, 2nd and 3rd movement by Sabrina Huang. Don't miss the opportunity to be inspired and support your fellow piano students.

Thanks to videographer Bill Thomas, you can view AASPA's new promo video here, which features clips from our winter graduation concert. AASPA President Brooke Chumachenko, selected students, and parents share what's special about the AASPA's graduation program and the Spivey Hall experience.

Senior Profile: Tara Chavda

AASPA celebrates high school senior Tara Chavda who attends Milton High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. Tara has been playing piano since she was four years old under the tutelage of Mrs. Lauretta Russell.

Tara is an avid volunteer with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the Chattahoochee Nature Center over the summer. During the school year, she takes part in Robotics and Model UN competitions.

Next year, Tara plans to attend Mercer University as a Penfield and Tift scholar majoring in biomedical engineering. Her future goal is work at Children's Hospital one day in a leadership role.

Tara's favorite piece from the Suzuki repertoire is Waltz in A Minor by Chopin.

Tara’s words of advice for younger students is: “Don't give up. There will be times when you don't want to practice. But, Practice. It will all be worth it at the end!”

Call Out For AASPA Fund Raising Help

In February the Vinings Rotary Club awarded a $1,000 grant to the Atlanta Area Suzuki Piano Association. These funds will be used to finance our upcoming concert, workshops, and student scholarships to attend the Suzuki Piano Camp in Louisville, KY.

Encouraged by this grant, our board is now actively seeking additional corporate sponsors and grant monies in order to create and realize future hallmark events like an Atlanta 10 Piano Concert. Please help us by considering the following questions:

Do you belong to a club or philanthropic organization that offers grants to non-profit organizations that specialize in youth education, the arts, community betterment, scholarship, or diversity?

Do you know of a company or small business that might be interested in becoming a corporate sponsor of the Atlanta Area Suzuki Piano Association?

If so, please reach out to AASPA Board Member Stephanie Adrian at with names and contact info for organizations who might be interested.

Senior Profile: Sophia Tarrago

AASPA is proud to commemorate Sophia Tarrago, a senior at Dunwoody High School and student of Ms. Pamela Smith. Sophia started piano when she was 7 years old, but began taking formal piano lessons in 6th grade (age 11) with Pamela Smith. Says Sophia about her teacher, "Ms. Pamela is one of the most encouraging and passionate teachers I had ever met, and I am so lucky to have had the chance to know and learn from her over the past seven years. She is an important figure in my life today."

Sophia's favorite piece from Suzuki Repertoire is “Gigue” from Partita in B-flat Major by Johann Sebastian Bach because "it is played with one hand over the other, and provides a unique perspective to playing music."

Along with the piano, Sophia has been playing viola in the school orchestra for 8 years. She is also the President of Habitat for Humanity, President of the National French Honor Society, and was on the Girls State Cross Country Team.

In the fall, Sophia plans to attend the University of Georgia and major in International Affairs, with a focus on microfinance and impact investment to create sustainable opportunities for people in different countries around the world. Although she will not be a music major, she hopes to take at least one music class if time permits to continue music study.

Sophia is grateful for what she's gotten from her Suzuki Piano experience. "Through the Suzuki Method, I developed patience, confidence, and understanding," she says. "Continued practice techniques taught me how to address different types of problems with various solutions. With continued performances, I became more confident in everyday situations and was able to play more comfortably. I was also able to relax more, which eased tension I may have been holding while playing. Music is a way to connect people of various cultures and languages on a simple level, and provides a means for people everywhere to relate and bond over something they can all understand."