Chelsea High School junior wins state competition for his piano solo

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CHS junior Peter Mourad (far right) with the other three winners of the state concerto competition. photo courtesy of Peter Mourad

Chelsea High School junior Peter Mourad achieved a big musical honor after being named as one of four winners at the recent Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association’s Concerto Competition.

Peter won first place in the state for his piano solo.

The Sun Times News (STN) caught up with him to ask about this achievement.

“I am super excited to have been one of the four winners of the MSBOA Concerto Competition.,” he said. “Participating in the competition and getting to see talented musicians from around the state perform was amazing. I wasn’t expecting to be one of the winners, so I was ecstatic when they made the announcement.”

STN also reached out to his teachers to get their views of his win.

“I am immensely proud to have him in my classroom as a student, and so is Mr. Peters, and for him to represent Chelsea in such a high honor,” said Chelsea orchestra teacher Phillip Sylvester.

Fellow music teacher Nathan Peters agreed.

“I was very happy to hear of Peter's accomplishment and recognition from MSBOA,” Mr. Peters said. “It is highly unusual for a student to reach this top solo distinction from MSBOA. In my time working in Chelsea, we have had finalists in the MSBOA State Solo Competition, but Peter is our first winner.”

He added, “Peter is a very dedicated music student. His piano and violin playing have both reached distinguished levels through consistent practice and performance.”

Mr. Peters said Peter was also a finalist in the Dexter Concerto Competition, playing a piano concerto and a finalist in the Michigan Piano Teacher's Association's Competition, and he was chosen to be a violinist in the MSBOA All State High School Orchestra this year and the past two years.

In March, Mr. Peters said Peter performed on the piano with the CHS piano trio including Megan Hayduk and Phoebe Harris at the Michigan String Teachers' Association's Chamber Music Festival and Competition at Western Michigan University.

As a side note, the trio will be performing with the Chelsea Ballet in the spring.

In explaining the state competition, Mr. Sylvester said the Solo and Ensemble festival is held through the MSBOA (Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association). He said the MSBOA holds district solo and ensemble competitions in almost every school in the state of Michigan.

“Thousands and thousands of students participate each year and top scoring solos and ensembles are selected to perform at State Solo and ensemble competition,” said Mr. Sylvester. “After states, Peter was then selected to submit a recording of his performance to the state concerto competition pool. He was selected as one of 61 students out of a pool of over 500 hundred. He traveled to the final competition this last weekend to compete in person and placed first out of the entire contest.”

Peter with his accompanist Mark Loring (at right). photo courtesy of Peter Mourad

Peter said he played Mendelssohn Piano Concerto #1 in G Minor for the winning performance. Previously, he had played the same piece for virtual State Solo and Ensemble, and then he performed twice in person at Central Michigan University to get into the semifinals and then on to become a winner of the competition.

This was a big moment for him. He’s been playing piano for almost 12 years now. It’s been a lot of dedication and commitment, but he said it's all been for something he really enjoys.

He typically practices 1-2 hours every day. However, he said he doesn’t really think of practice as a chore.

“I always find myself looking forward to playing and improving,” Peter said. “When I’m finding it harder to practice than usual, I think about how I want the audience to feel when they hear my playing and how I can craft the music to best reach them. Performances are also a big part of what motivates me; I want to be able to share the highest quality music with the people that listen to me.”

In his explaining his love for the piano, Peter said “I really like how many different feelings and emotions are expressible on the piano.”

“As an instrument, it has such a wide variety of styles, sound qualities, and different ways to be played,” he said. “Exploring all those endless possibilities is what I love about the piano.”

Although it was a solo performance that earned him the win, he said he’s received a lot of support and help along the way to get him to this place.

“I would like to thank all my teachers, musical mentors, and my family for their support through the process, especially my parents, piano teacher Lester Castellana, violin teacher Nathan Peters, and orchestra teacher Phillip Sylvester,” he said. “All of them have motivated me to strive for musical excellence and helped in tons of ways; I couldn’t have won without them.”

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