At a time when most high school seniors are planning for graduation and what lies ahead, Seth Durbin leaves 2021 not only as an Ames High School graduate, but also as a decorated pianist. Playing piano for 10 years, the Ames High senior has received multiple awards in just the past two months.
“This is the first year I have tried a few competitions,” said Durbin. “There were many opportunities since everything was virtual.”
One such opportunity is the Terrace Hill Piano Competition. Established in 1986 by the Terrace Hill Endowment for Musical Arts, this competition is typically held at the Iowa PBS studios in Johnston, but was held virtually this year. Durbin received first place in the senior division. He describes the virtual competitions as “definitely different” with the biggest being no audience. This makes it especially difficult for players to bring out the performance aspect in video submissions since they are not performing in front of anyone.
To prepare for these competitions, Durbin says he practices a significant amount of time, playing slowly to gain confidence with the piece. He says piano has been a good escape from the daily things that life throws at him and enjoys just sitting down and playing.
“Playing is a great way to relax and express myself,” adds Durbin. “During the pandemic, I am glad that I was spending time learning Chopin 24 Prelude, Op 28. It is a challenging repertoire.”
His other accolades include second place in the Des Moines Area Piano Festival, first place in the Iowa Music Teacher’s Association (IMTA) District Auditions, and runner-up in the IMTA State Auditions. Many of these awards also come with college scholarships. Durbin received the Victor Borge Legacy Award, the First Family of Iowa Scholarship, and an invitation to perform at the 32nd Annual Ames Town and Gown Musicale.
“Seth is a very good musician,” said Peggy Deiter, Chorus teacher at Ames High School. “It is delightful to be able to celebrate this with him and let everyone know how hard he has worked to receive such an honor.”
After graduation, Durbin plans to attend college to major in Mechanical Engineering. He gives thanks to his early piano teacher, Michiyo Hattori, and current teacher, Professor Mei-Hsuan Huang at Iowa State University.
“For piano beginners, it is important to find a good teacher,” adds Durbin, who is considering a minor in piano. “I’ll always play the piano.”