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Junior Colin Levins Prepares for a Life of Playing Piano

Junior+Colin+Levins+stands+on+stage+with+his+fellow+students+after+a+recital+held+at+Penn+State+over+the+summer.+Levins+attended+a+camp+there+last+July+for+seven+days.+%28photo+submitted%29
Junior Colin Levins stands on stage with his fellow students after a recital held at Penn State over the summer. Levins attended a camp there last July for seven days. (photo submitted)

Junior Colin Levins stands on stage with his fellow students after a recital held at Penn State over the summer. Levins attended a camp there last July for seven days. (photo submitted)

Junior Colin Levins stands on stage with his fellow students after a recital held at Penn State over the summer. Levins attended a camp there last July for seven days. (photo submitted)

By Noah Slaughter, North Star Copy Editor

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“First, it starts off as brilliant,” he says, arching his fingers over the keys and preparing himself to play. Practicing from memory, he takes this jumble of chords and symbols and makes it his own. With each push of his fingers, he brings life to the notes, filling his home with the ebb and flow of piano music. He follows with a dreamy melody, repeats it and moves on to a march. He gets into an A Major arpeggio before falling into a “nightmare” section, as he puts it. “Then I do all of that again,” he says.

Today, junior Colin Levins is practicing Brahms’ Rhapsody Op. 29 No. 2. It’s one of the hundreds of pieces he’s learned already and the thousands he will likely have to master as he plans for his future in piano performance or education. For Colin though, playing piano is more than just a pastime or even a future career. It’s an escape.

“It’s basically my way of expressing myself,” Colin said. “A lot of people express themselves in their sports or work or clubs, but this is my way of just expressing myself and just enjoying myself in everything that I do.”

That expression began 14 years ago, when a 3-year-old Colin began eyeing the piano at a neighbor’s house. His friends took lessons, and their mother saw Colin’s interest in the piano. One day, she played a few notes for Colin, and he played them back from ear perfectly. After their neighbor told them this, Colin’s parents, non-musicians, were shocked by his talent and signed him up for lessons. He hasn’t put away the books and sheet music since.

“It’s hard to describe because it’s really beautiful,” Colin’s mother Claudia Levins said. “Just to listen to him play, it really blows you away. You just feel such pride.”

After his first teacher moved to Kansas City, Colin began taking lessons from a second teacher and then a third before going back to that second teacher. After a while, though, he became too advanced for her and landed with his fourth and current teacher, Karen Poore at Wentzville Academy of Music.

“Some people have natural talent and some people have to work a little bit harder,” Poore said. “Colin doesn’t actually have to work as hard as some of those people because of the fact that he has a natural gift to be able to perform and play very musically. For me, being able to work with that kind of talent is really kind of refreshing.”

Colin takes private lessons with Poore for an hour every Monday night, and he always tries to make up lessons if he has to miss one week. Outside of these lessons, he estimates that he practices anywhere from one to four hours a day, or about 25 hours a week. Someday soon, he hopes that all of these hours spent practicing at home, surrounded by music books and even a few contest trophies, will lead him to a college where he can double major in piano performance and pedagogy, or teaching. Colin plans on auditioning at UMKC and UCM, but he’s also thinking about trying for a top performance school, like Juilliard or the New England Conservatory of Music.

“It’s something that’s always been throughout my mind because I knew it was something I could achieve,” Colin said. “Probably the moment I started thinking that I actually wanted to major in music was around the end of middle school because that’s when I realized that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Colin will begin auditioning for these schools this December with UCM and different colleges he’s interested in hold auditions throughout January and February. The application process is more involved for Colin than for non-music students, though. He still has to submit a regular application – complete with ACT, GPA and the like – on top of his auditions.

“It’s college,” Colin said. “You can’t not get excited about that. It is a bit nerve-wracking in the sense that you get to see this wonderful school and then you have to go audition for it and not know if you’ll get in until a few months after you audition.”

Besides his weekly lessons with Poore, Colin attends camps over the summer to improve himself in time for his auditions. This past July, he was one of about six pianists to audition for and be accepted to a camp at Penn State. This summer will be no different, as he plans on going back to a camp at UCM for the third year in a row, and he might also go to another one at SEMO.

Despite the pressure of his upcoming auditions, Colin still finds his escape behind the piano keys. As the Brahms piece dwindles to a close, he hits two quick chords, ending his practice for the moment. If he has his way, though, he still has thousands of hours of practice to go.

“This has been my escape,” Colin said. “I feel like, yes, I’d be more social [without piano], but I’d also feel like something’s missing out of my life.”

 

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Junior Colin Levins Prepares for a Life of Playing Piano