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Tickling the ivories

My fingers glide across the keys, and I feel at peace. As I play my contest piece for about the millionth time, I think I'm ready. The next day I am to play "L'Orage" at the MMTA piano preliminary contest.

I first started playing piano in first grade. My aunt and uncle bought me a tiny keyboard with bright colors. (Most likely to appeal to the younger audiences.) The first song I ever learned to play was "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I thought I was so cool because I learned it all by myself.

Later on, when I decided I actually liked piano, I got a bigger keyboard. I remember waking up at about three in the morning to look at my presents under the Christmas tree. I noticed the biggest one was for me and immediately was convinced it was a new car just for me. I now realize how unrealistic and dumb that thought was because a) I was about 6 or 7, b) How would a car fir in my living room?, and c) the box was a little smaller than me.

So after I really got into piano, we actually bought a real piano. It's a studio upright, and I think it's beautiful. It used to belong to a professional musician, and my piano teacher approved its purchase. I've had it ever since. This piano has gotten me through endless numbers of songs, recitals and bad days. I plan to take it with me when I move out.

Four years ago, I participated in my first contest. "Railroad Boogie" was my piece. It was none other than the old "I've been working on the railroad" song with a funky twist. I ended up getting a 94, needing a 96 to qualify for the state competition.

I was disappointed, but knowing I tried made me feel better. Trying and failing is a whole lot better than not trying at all.

The next year, I had a piece called "Gypsy Dance." I had a choice between "Gypsy Dance" and about four others. "Gypsy Dance" was by far the hardest, so I decided to go with it. It took me countless nights full of practicing, trying to perfect it. A week before the contest I still hadn't had it memorized. At the contest you aren't allowed to use your music. I was in trouble.

On the Wednesday before the Saturday contest it came to me. All of a sudden I could play it without music. I had memorized it. I was so thrilled, I couldn't stop playing it. My piano teacher Holly was practically bouncing off the walls.

At 8:30 in the morning, I performed my piece for a judge. I messed up completely. Apparently it wasn't too bad though. I got a 96, qualifying for state.

State piano was one of the best experiences in my life. You get a time to perform for the judge, you go play it for them, and then you leave. It was held at Ferguson Hall at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. I went in and played and then my dad and I toured the college. I was so nervous the whole day. If I did well enough at state, I would go on to play at the Honors Concert.

The Honors Concert is a concert where you have to dress up all fancy like and play for an audience at Northrup Auditorium at the University of Minnesota. It's only for a select few from each age group.

My piano teacher called me sometime in the next week and informed me of the news. When she told me I had made it to the Honors Concert I almost started crying. I was just so darn happy! Now it was time to learn a whole new piece. It was a duet called "Fifth Avenue Stroll." It was a jazzy style song, which is my favorite style to play.

After three months of practicing and driving down to the Cities for practices with my partner, it was time for the show. My teal green dress and black heels were all ready to go, and so was I.

I loved playing up in front of everybody, up on that stage. I played with a boy named Robert, and I'd say we played fantastically. I had such a splendid time, and I can't wait to go again.

This year, I might get the chance. I found out Sunday morning that I qualified for the state piano competition once again. The date is set for March 12, and I can't wait. I just have to keep on practicing "L'Orage" and I will be ready.

I can't wait to see what happens next in my piano career. I know I will be playing piano for the rest of my life. I can't thank my aunt and uncle enough for starting me out on piano. I love having music in my life, and loving it makes it even better.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a freshman at Detroit Lakes High School.