By Debbie Adams
The piano students of Carol McCulloch (also known as Lala) presented their annual Spring Recital on June 5 at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
McCulloch uses the piano to teach the love of music to both typical and special needs students.
Students performing this year, their recital selection(s), and comments from McCulloch include:
Natalie Peters, “Catch a Falling Star.” “Natalie is such a joy to work with. She is dedicated and patient and prepares for every lesson in detail. She is very involved in church youth activities and especially likes to participate in their dramas and musicals.”
Kennedy Bentley, “Morning Prelude” and “Got Lotsa’ Rhythm.” “Bentley is simply a joy to teach and to watch grow (even on frustrating days). She always prepares, shows grace under pressure, and appreciates a new challenge. Kennedy puts a positive spin on things and a big smile on her face.”
Levi Laughinghouse, “Sweden.” “Levi is so much fun to be around and a wonderful student. He takes his music seriously. As the oldest of five siblings, he has some great leadership qualities which are reflected in his overall work habits. Positive, outgoing, talented, and helpful—all of these are Levi’s specialties.”
Alyssa Walker, “Sunday Best.” “Alyssa started lessons with me in upper elementary and even then, she was such a quick study with fingers that felt at home all over the keyboard. She’s one of those students who excels in sports, academics, and music, but she continues to work hard to conquer new goals in all those areas. Although we have most of her lessons virtually, she manages to exceed expectations on a regular basis. Alyssa is a true class act at a very young age.”
Matt Graybill, “Speak Softly, Love” and “The Godfather Waltz.” “Matt is another adult who thinks every single note, dynamic, and musical marking should be played to perfection, and I’ve had very little luck persuading him otherwise. He has always been a quick study, and he is ready, willing, and able to take on several new pieces at once.”
Peter Anderson, “Jurassic Park.” “Peter was recently part of the North Cross School Spring Musical cast. He excels in music theory, including great transposing skills. He also enjoys other school and community activities like basketball and cross country. Even when we Zoom our lessons, he’s fun to have on board.”
Maddie Dooley, “Pastorale.” “Maddie is sweet, spunky, talented, and prepared. She is always ready to do more than expected and has grown so much in the area of performance. She absolutely adores taking care of her animals, as well as just hanging out with them. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that she has taken a keyboard outside for a barnyard concert.”
Norah Laughinghouse, “In Christ Alone.” “Norah is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I know. To be so young, she is quietly wise beyond her years and those qualities are truly assets when it comes to appreciating the therapeutic value of music. When she selects a piece to work on, I can be sure she will give it 100%.”
Alana Kiedrowski, “Aura Lee.” “Alana is that person we would all like to call our friend. Facing a few obstacles in her life only makes her a stronger and more optimistic lady who I’m delighted to visit with each week. No matter how frustrated my day has been, in walks Alana and it’s all forgotten. She was recently crowned Honorary Princess at the Staunton River High School Senior Prom which shows the love of her peers for her. And nobody plays ‘Happy Birthday’ with the enthusiasm and grace that she does.”
Margaret Bryant, “Amazing Grace.” “Margaret is an adult student who has that special “piano touch” which is a God-given gift. Since taking lessons, it’s been my pleasure to hear her prep for her Sunday morning preludes at church and to see her confidence grow each and every week. After a stressful day at work, she arrives ready to wind down by playing several beautiful hymns as well as lesson book assignments. She’s a lovely lady who uses her talent in the loveliest of ways.”
Abbie Dooley, “The Other Side” and “Night of the Tarantella.” “Abbie has been expanding her music horizons for years now, and she has never stopped preparing to the best of her ability. She plays a variety of music genres and doesn’t shy away from more complex arrangements. She has become proficient in ‘making a piece her own’. Abbie is now using her talent to play piano for church. What a blessing she will be in that capacity.”
Tyler Jones, “My Invention.” “Tyler has a laid back, fun-loving attitude toward his pursuit of music. His extroverted personality and kind demeanor are special.”
Maggie Laughinghouse, “Build Me Up, Buttercup.” “Maggie is one of those people who lights up the room when she walks in a room. She plays the piano with zest, especially when she picks out the music, but she knows the importance of keeping up with the basics. She is a busy young lady with school, church activities, sports, and being a ‘Mother Hen’ helping her mother keep up with her baby brother.”
Mazlynn Otey, “New World Symphony” and the duet “Deep and Wide.” “Mazlynn is a diva in the most awesome way. She never shys away from a new piece of music, always wants to be assigned more, and is downright upset if a worksheet is not part of her weekly lesson. She is a little live wire who brings her very best to every lesson and what more could any teacher ask?’
Courtney Walls, “Meet the Flintstones.” “Courtney always enjoys our games and floor piano antics, but she’s also come a long way in taking on more serious music challenges. She enjoys cheering, basketball, traveling with her family, and special girls’ nights out with her friends. She is a polite little lady who is a good listener, not only a great quality for a piano student, but for anyone in general.”
Vivian Olsen, “It’s a Small World.” “Vivian is relatively new and making steady progress and developing a good and consistent practice schedule. She is a great sport as well.”
Elizabeth Martinez, “Fascination” and “All Through the Night.” “I’m really proud of the progress she’s made in piano and as a student leader at William Byrd Middle School. She and her partner developed a presentation about the inequities of current SOL testing which took them to both the state legislature and the county school board. Musically this lovely young lady just shines brighter and brighter with every performance. She never stops striving to excel and it shows.”
Olive Laughinghouse, “The Princess Waltz.” “This young lady hasn’t yet completed a full year of lessons, but she is rocking her music assignments each and every week. I never have to remind her about practicing, or reviewing theory, because she is continually looking ahead for more to do! Smart, sassy (yet respectful), Olive is preparing for a great future in piano, as well as anything else she decides to tackle.”
Siena Hurst played several selections in the prelude to the recital, including “Yankee Doodle” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” “Sienna is another one of those special people who grace our lives with the kind of positive attitude that most of us can only wish we had. She never lets negativity invade her space. She has taken to the piano with such enthusiasm and dedication, and she considers herself fortunate to have music as a new challenge. Regardless of any obstacle that’s been thrown at her, she just uses that obstacle as another stepping stone. It’s been wonderful to work with her in piano, and more wonderful to have her as a friend.”
Chukie Elechi, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” and “Come Bless the Lord.” “Chukie is a treasure in so many ways, not the least of which is his music journey the past twelve years. He practices; he doesn’t show frustration; and he has come so far over the years, because he never gives up.”
Mimi Olsen, “Morning.” “Mimi is one of the most dedicated and motivated students I have. She never fails to complete an assignment; she practices consistently; and she wants to improve weekly. What more could I ask?”
Sofie Ingraham, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Lead Me to Calvary,” and “A Marvel Melody.” “Sophie amazes me. She’s smart, spunky, and plays the most difficult pieces like they were written only for her personal pleasure. Most of all, I’ve seen her grow in her music choices, including beautiful hymns which she incorporates into her own style.”
Kendall Adams, “Do Re Mi.” Kendall is a very polite young lady to teach and it’s a pleasure to see her walk through my door on Wednesday. She realizes the importance of practice and is quite pleased when she sees that work ethic pay off. She is a well-rounded fifth grade student at W. E. Cundiff.”
Katie Cataldo, “Ocean Waves.” “Katie has had less than three months of instruction but has exhibited outstanding dedication, preparation, and a delightful piano presence. I couldn’t believe she wanted to participate so soon in a recital, but she decided that she wanted to dive right in and she certainly made the right choice. Her beautiful smile and her quiet sweet personality are truly gifts.”
Logan Jones, “Casey Jones” and “This Train.” “Logan is structured, intelligent, opinionated, clever, talented and funny. Since beginning piano in elementary school, he has never accepted mediocrity. He is a rising senior at William Byrd High School.”
Students unable to participate in the Spring Recital include Chloe Conner, Madison Hare, Teresa Nester, Stephanie O’Donnell, Dot Phillips, Julia Russ, Frank Stiff, and Kaylynn Wilson.
For the first time in 12 years, two students tied for the Star Piano Student Award, Alyssa Walker and Elizabeth Martinez. This recognition is not based solely on talent and performance, but also on the student’s attitude, respectfulness, on-time completion of all assigned projects and going above and beyond what’s required of them. Both met and exceeded these requirements.
“Alyssa will be a seventh grader at Read Mountain Middle School and Elizabeth is a rising freshman at William Byrd High School,” McCulloch said in presenting the awards. “Both are outstanding in academics and excel in sports as well. Their talent and dedication to music blossom in every single lesson!”