Freshman wins piano competition

Imagine that you had the responsibility of keeping an entire orchestra together, that one mistake could lead to a musical disaster, that you couldn’t just stop and start over if you messed up.

Freshman Makela Hayford has been playing piano for nine years, an experience that recently led her to playing in the Young Artist Showcase with the Heritage Philharmonic Orchestra. Hayford was one of two people that won the honor, along with Blue Valley West senior Jonathan Park.

At the concert on May 1, Hayford played with 50+ members of a professional orchestra.

“It is really hard compared to just playing by yourself. You are the leader and you have to coordinate with everyone, and everyone is going to hear you,” Hayford said. “It was also really intimidating- I was really young compared to the other professional musicians that have majored in music.”

Hayford accompanied the orchestra on Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G-Minor, Op. 25. The work is known for its fast tempo, and can be considered very difficult.

” was really fast, which makes it harder. You have to get all the notes in and make music that people enjoy while still getting all the technical aspects of it,” Hayford said. “I actually don’t enjoy playing on stage. It’s more fun to play by myself or with friends. I was basically on auto-pilot the entire time, but I did feel proud of myself after I finished the piece.”

Hayford contributes part of her musical success to two teachers- Dr. Nata Dolnik and Dr. Barbara Leyden.

” is really strict, and her competitiveness and strictness help me because she does tells me to do the work. She’s really terrific,” Hayford said. “Ms. Leyden was my teacher for three years of choir. I originally learned how to read music from her class, and she helped my rhythm when I played drums.”

Leyden also had Hayford begin to play in front of large groups of people at mass to help her musical experience.

In seventh grade, I offer the opportunity for students to play instrumentals as preludes. I saw from the level that she was playing at that she was able to play along with the choir at mass,” Leyden said. “She was a good student. She listened, paid attention, and stood out when it came to playing instrument parts. She also had an excellent sense of steady beat, which is important for all instruments.”

Besides playing at her church, Hayford has been competing in several piano competitions. Every fall she plays in a festival where the rankings are 1 through 4, one being the best. Since 5th grade, Hayford has only received 1’s at this competition. At the most recent Young Artist Showcase, the prize for 1st place (which she won) was $500 and the opportunity to play in the concert.

She played a very difficult piece, and played it excitingly and with so much strength,” Leyden said. “Of course, with an orchestra, you’ve got to keep going no matter what, and she did that. She was a only a freshman, and the other winner was a senior. His piece was beautiful, but hers was more exciting for the audience.”

Although Hayford has a promising future as a pianist, she plans to go into architectural engineering, and stop piano lessons after high school.

“Music is a pretty risky field, and is safer for me to get into. I still want to be involved with an orchestra, but only on the side,” Hayford said. “Music gives you a chance to express yourself. Everyone loves it, and it gives you an outlet where other people can enjoy it too.”