SRU student to compete at international piano festival


Kaitlynn Sinclair

May 27, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Kaitlynn Sinclair was just 14 years old when she met the love of her life. However, the object of her affection didn't have thick, blonde hair or deep, blue eyes. Rather, it had 88 keys and a bench seat.

"The summer before eighth grade, I spent six hours a day glued to the piano bench," said Sinclair. "My friends were on the beach enjoying the sunshine and I was fixated on becoming the best pianist I could be."

The senior music therapy major, who battles performance anxiety, will again find herself on the bench this summer as one of 18 budding pianists from around the world to take part in the 4th Dublin International Piano Festival and Summer Academy, July 23-31 in Dublin, Ireland.

Founded in 2012 by pianists Archie Chen and Rhona Gouldson, the nine-day festival offers an intensive educational experience for advanced piano students such as Sinclair, as well as a concert series open to the public featuring top international pianists.

"I'm still speechless (that I was selected)," Sinclair said with a laugh. "It's incredibly humbling knowing where I came from to where I am now. I've gone from crying before recitals to being afforded the opportunity to showcase myself before world famous pianists."

On the final day of the festival, Sinclair will participate in a collaborative recital with 17 other invitees. The presentation will be open to the public, but Sinclair professes that her anxiety will not get the best of her.

"I wasn't selected just for my abilities, but for my confidence and talent," said Sinclair. "If I can perform in front of my heroes, I can perform in front of anybody. I'm confident I've got this."

Five years ago however, Sinclair's confidence was all but shaken.

Originally enrolled at Cedarville (Ohio) University in 2011, Sinclair entered her freshman year full of enthusiasm, certain that her passion and playing were sufficient to guarantee her acceptance into the piano program.

However, the university saw it another way.

"I simply didn't know enough," Sinclair said. "I wasn't familiar enough with classical pieces, so, with what I felt was no regard to my talent, they gave up on me. They told me 'You can't be a pianist here.'"

The remarks were a blow to Sinclair's spirit and forced her to choose a different path. A former high school musical performer, she chose voice as her field of study.

While Sinclair possessed talent as a vocalist, the disappointment of not being at the piano any longer led to disinterest at school and eventually drove her back to her parent's home in Slippery Rock.

It was at there that she was reunited with an old friend, the same piano bench that had been her companion through hour upon hour of practice. In a moment of almost defiant determination, Sinclair chose to leave Cedarville for SRU, hoping for a chance to prove herself and her skills at the piano once again.

Little did she know that another former ally was already on the SRU campus.

"Kaitlynn and I go way back," said Glenn Utsch, associate professor of music performance. "I gave her piano lessons when she was in high school, but she had no idea that I worked at the University. When I saw her again and heard her story, I knew I could help her regain sight of her potential."

Reunited with her former mentor and ready for a fresh start, Sinclair was elated.

"He saw how I loved piano and he wanted me to just go for it," said Sinclair. "He knew what I was capable of and that I would push myself. (Others) may not have been able to see it, but he could."

Sinclair described the past four years under Utsch as a period of learning and growth. She corrected previously identified deficiencies in her repertoire by building a proficiency in classical pieces; and by constructing a portfolio that has included time as a children's music teacher, member of the SRU Wind Ensemble, student accompanist and frequent recitalist.

Her acceptance to the Dublin Academy is the first for an SRU student and for Sinclair, who plans to pursue a doctorate in piano pedagogy; it is the fruition of her dedication and perseverance.

"This journey I've been on since arriving at SRU has been incredible," she said. "I expect that taking part in the academy will help me to further transform myself into the confident and poised piano professional that I want to become. I feel I'm up to the challenge."

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