Piano Man

Soroco High School student lets fingers do the talking

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When Gregory Block injured his index finger playing basketball last winter, he knew his playing days were over for a while.

But the minor injury meant not only a timeout from some sports but music as well.

Block, a 15-year-old freshman at Soroco High School, took his first piano lesson seven years ago.

What began as a curiosity soon became a full-fledged interest that now competes for the teen-ager's time.

A one-month hiatus from playing the piano after his basketball injury taught him the importance of music in his life, he said.

Block said his teacher often encourages him to use caution when pursuing his non-musical interests.

Activities such as mountain climbing, biking and skiing are not always conducive to his playing when they contribute to jammed, smashed and cut fingers, he said.

Block made sure injuries didn't keep him from playing the piano a few weeks ago at Greeley's Monfort Hall, where he performed with 13 other high school students from Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, in the district-level competition of Stars of Tomorrow.

Kiwanis clubs across the nation sponsor the talent contest, which names winners at the local, district, state and national levels.

Block captured first place at the local-level competition sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Steamboat Springs.

His rendition of Beethoven's "Sonata Pathetique" earned him an all-expense-paid trip to the district competition in Greeley.

He began practicing "Sonata Pathetique" last December after he heard a recording of the music.

The piece allows him to experiment with many different styles of playing because the music blends so many different moods, he said.

"It gives me a chance to do everything," he said.

He intends to continue practicing the piece this summer.

When the school year ends, so do his lessons at Perry-Mansfield School until classes resume in the fall.

It can be hard to stay motivated during the summer, so Block said he plans to practice much of his old repertoire.

The freshman practices on his upright piano at home, but a Grand piano on the stage in Greeley enhanced his experience.

It made him feel as though his performance was important, he said.

Block said he was impressed by the level of musical and artistic talent displayed by the high school students who reached the district-level competition.

Their performances somewhat intimidated him, but he remembered to keep in mind his reason for participating in the contest.

When he stepped onto the stage to play, he said, he was no longer nervous.

"He's a phenomenal pianist," said John Mertz, president of the Kiwanis Club of Steamboat Springs.

It was an honor for Block to represent his high school and Routt County at the event, Mertz said.

Because of Block's rank in school, he could participate another three years in the contest, he said.

The local Stars of Tomorrow competition drew 37 children from Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs.

The contest encourages children to not only focus on their talents, but it gives them an avenue whereby they can showcase those talents, Mertz said.

Block said he would like to continue playing the piano in college.

For now he is content to squeeze in practice time between sports and school.

Today the 15-year-old's repertoire varies from the pieces he played seven years ago, but his passion for his music remains.

Regardless of life's uncertainties, he said, he knows his piano will always be a constant source of assurance.

"I really like to play for myself," he said.

"It's hard for me to play for anyone else."

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