Piano is his forte: Stephany to perform solo recital May 1

By: 
Keeley Meier, staff writer

Submitted photos

Sophomore Ty Stephany will perform a solo recital May 1 in the PAC.

Ty Stephany began playing the piano at 5 years old. 

His mom is a piano teacher and started him on his journey.

But soon, Stephany’s talent began to surpass what his mom could teach him.

“I begged her for a really long time to play, and then finally, she let me,” Stephany said. “So, I started and then we realized over time I was moving along at a really fast pace, so we realized I was going to need something more than her. When I was 11, I passed her abilities.”

So, they began to seek out a new teacher for Stephany, and through connections, they found a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Dr. Paul Barnes.

“I auditioned to be in his studio, and he took me in that day,” Stephany said. 

“Ty is one of the most talented young students with whom I’ve worked,” Barnes said. “He has a very natural ability at the piano and is incredibly responsive to my instruction. It’s a great pleasure to work with a student with such innate ability coupled with a very wonderful work ethic.”

For the past five years, Stephany has made the seven-hour road trip to Lincoln every other week for lessons. But, the long distance has been worth it. 

Stephany is an accomplished pianist at the age of 16. 

One of his most notable achievements came from performing his way to first place in the 2020 Young Musician Concerto Competition offered by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra—allowing him a chance to play with the orchestra in March of 2022, along with a cash prize. 

Stephany also participated in the 2020 State Level of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Performance Competitions and advanced to the West Central Division. He has also won the Nebraska MTNA State Junior Piano competition twice and the Senior Piano competition in 2020. He also scored top honors in the Truran Piano Competition at the University of South Dakota. 

His competitive edge, however, doesn’t end there.

Stephany also competed in the Bill Riley Talent Search for seven years, which is associated with the Iowa State Fair, and was selected to compete at the state fair each year. He captured a place in the semifinals five times and has also been a finalist. 

And, now, he’s taking his talent and showcasing it here in Brandon. On Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m., Stephany will be performing a solo recital in the BV Performing Arts Center. 

The idea for the recital, Stephany says, came from Barnes, who suggested it as a way to motivate him to continue on in the midst of canceled performances due to COVID. 

For the recital, Stephany says he wants to give the audience a well-rounded experience with classical music—and will be playing pieces from Mozart, Johannes Brahms and Béla Bartók. In between pieces, he’ll be providing the audience with context about the composers and the pieces they’ve created.

For those unable to attend in person, Stephany will be livestreaming the recital, which can be here.

And if all of that’s not enough, Stephany, who is homeschooled but is dual enrolled at Brandon Valley High School, is part of the high school’s choir—nabbing a spot in the 2020-21 All-State Chorus. He is very involved with theatre, as well, most recently playing the role of Max Deitweiler in the high school’s production of The Sound of Music. 

And, for Stephany, theatre is where his true passion lies. 

“That’s the dream—is Broadway,” Stephany said. “I can do piano, yes, but I’ve discovered the passion is in theatre. I like piano, but there’s not a fire there, and there is for theatre.”

His hopes of being on a Broadway stage someday, however, won’t stop him from pursuing his piano career further, saying he’d like to take it as far as he can.

“My belief is that knowledge and more of it will never do you any harm, even if you don’t use it, you can use it in other aspects of your life and lessons that you’ve learned from that and apply it to other areas,” Stephany said. “So, even if that’s not what I end up wanting to do in the future, that would still benefit me in other areas.”

His continuation of piano comes with a strong work ethic and wealth of dedication, says Stephany, who practices every day for an hour and a half. 

“When I was with my mom, I only practiced about half an hour every day, and during my first lesson, my professor broke it to me, saying, ‘You know, you should probably practice two hours a day,’” Stephany said. “And, 11-year-old, sixth-grade Ty was terrified and cried on the spot because he was very worried about how that would change his life, and it did. It did change his life.”

Stephany says one of his favorite pieces he’s learned is “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, but he also has a love for Franz Liszt and big, moving pieces.

“I am blessed with magically large hands, so playing stuff with giant octave scales is really fun,” Stephany laughed.  

The sophomore virtuoso has also began dabbling in composition with some exciting projects in the works for future shows at the high school. Additionally, he plays accompaniment for the high school and middle school choirs whenever he can. 

As for advice to those wanting to get into piano, he says dedication is key.

“I think people get intimidated because they see other people play really well, and they think, ‘How are you so good? How did you get to where you are?’ and the reality is it didn’t happen overnight,” Stephany said. “I’ve been doing this for 11 years, and it didn’t happen just like that. I used to suck, but then you get better.”

And, for Stephany, who has been through the disappointment of canceled performances due to COVID and not knowing exactly what his future holds, he sums it up in just three words:

“Trust the process.” 

 

 

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