Emma Peplow

For anyone who has had the pleasure to watch junior Natalie Cernius play the piano, it is truly breathtaking.  Your eyes have trouble keeping up as her long fingers climb up and down the ivory keys, while your ears are comforted by the harmonies coming from the instrument Cernius has conquered. 

Recently, Natalie has earned the honor of performing at the highly esteemed Carnegie Hall in New York City three separate times over the course of three months, two of which are solo performances and one of which is a trio.  Cernius was one of the winners three separate competitions, two run by American Protegee and one put on by the American Fine Arts Festival.

"It was an amazing experience.  I've never gotten to do something quite like that before.  I've never played for such a huge audience on such a huge stage.  I wasn't super nervous because I have been playing for people all my life but the feeling after I finished my piece was incredible; looking out into the audience, it's something I can't describe." Cernius smiled.

Cernius began playing piano at the age of 4 and went onto her first piano competition at the tender age of 7.  "I didn't really know what was going on.  I thought I was just going to play the piano, laughed Cernius. "That's what I've always done. It's just like playing at home because in the end, it's just me and the piano." Cernius was inspired to take up piano, after watching her older brother and sister play.  Quickly after her first lesson, Cernius fell in love with classical music.  "It had been a part of my life for so long.  My brothers and sisters had played for years and I would hear the music as I was crawling under the piano," said Cernius. "When you're a part of my family, at a certain age you just play the piano.  It's just something we do. I just thought it was something every person did and I was excited that it was finally my turn.  I loved it from the start."

In 2010, when Natalie was in 9th grade, she auditioned for and received a spot as a pianist in the Orange County Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra.  “The orchestra added a new dimension to my love of music and I'm glad I get to be a member," said Cernius.  During the summer of 2011, Cernius and the PSYO traveled to their conductor’s native Bulgaria to perform in the national concert hall. 

Aside from long hours of rehearsals, some of Cernius’ skills are brought on by raw talent.  “Something that has aided me in my musical carrer is that I can identify almost any sound with a musical note, from a clap of the hands to a 5-tone chord to a foghorn,” grinned Cernius.  After testing her extensively on everything from a scream, to a whistle, to a knock, I stood in amazement as Natalie, without any semblance of hesitation, told me the note of each sound I made. 

If you know Natalie outside of her performances onstage, you will probably notice her in class playing an imaginary piano on her desk sometimes as she takes notes or listens to a lecture.  “Force of habit I guess,” Cernius laughed.  She is never without her musical theory book or sheet music strewn on the front seat of her car, or her disc of classical music to listen to on her way to and from school and her hectic rehearsal schedule. 

When asked about how she prepares for such high pressure performances, Natalie said, "Everyday I practice a minimum of 2 hours.  The few weeks before a competition I practice 4 to 5 hours a day and spend a lot of time at my piano teacher's house, practicing and having her direct me so I feel 100% prepared."

Natalie hopes to never stop pursuing her love of music, hoping to one day minor in music in college and "have fun playing music with friends and for anyone who will listen."

Aside from her extraordinary work ethic that is supplemented by her rare raw talent, Cernius has an ability to communicate emotion and feeling through music in a way that words never could.  Though she insists that it is a privilege for her to perform, I can honestly say that after listening to one of Natalie's performances, I was the one who felt privileged to be in attendance.
1/19/2017 08:34:30 pm

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