In many cases, talented musicians and performers begin at very young ages with intense musical training and day-to-night practices. However, senior music therapy major and pianist Kaitlynn Sinclair’s success story is told a little differently.
“I used to go on Youtube and watch a guy named David Sides just play all these cool renditions of famous songs,” Sinclair said of her humble beginnings. “I would take my tiny keyboard into my mom’s office and watch his hands and just copy what I heard and saw.”
Soon enough, she was hooked, and began taking professional piano lessons at the start of her seventh-grade year. At first, she was to practice at least 15 minutes a day, but by the time she hit her sophomore year of high school, she was working with her piano anywhere from four to six hours every day.
“I wasn’t practicing because I had to, but because I wanted to,” Sinclair said. “I think that is the reason why I am where I am today.”
Sinclair says she has only had two piano teachers, including a worship pastor at the Butler Alliance Church Pastor Dave Prentice, who was there when she began her musical journey and later got her in contact with Slippery Rock University piano professor Dr. Glenn Utsch.
At the beginning of her post-high school education, Sinclair attended Cedarville University in Ohio for a year, where her primary instrument was voice due to her apparent lack of experience and ability on piano. When she transferred to SRU, her former piano teacher Dr. Utsch asked her to audition on piano.
“Without a doubt in my mind, I can say that without his guidance and teaching in my life, I would’ve given up on piano a long time ago,” Sinclair said of her mentor, Dr. Utsch. “He saw potential which gave me hope, and his influence, humility, gentle character and teaching gave me the determination and motivation to be the best I can be.”
In late July, Sinclair will be traveling across the Atlantic to Ireland to participate in the Dublin International Piano Festival (DIPF). According to the DIPF website, the nine-day festival and educational experience was founded in 2012 by pianists Archie Chen and Rhona Gouldson. Those nine days will be filled with lessons, masterclasses, seminars and performances from advanced piano students and audiences from all over the world, with one day set aside for the students to explore and experience the city and all it has to offer. This year, DIPF is being held from July 23-31.
The application process was simple, although very competitive, as the festival would only be accepting 18 applicants, no matter how many people applied. An application, found on the DIPF website, was to be filled out and the applicants were to record and send in two videos of themselves performing two different memorized pieces. In the end, there were 52 applicants, and Sinclair was one of the 18 selected.
Sinclair said she heard about DIPF through Dr. Utsch, who sometimes sends each of his students these types of events.
“I don’t really know what made me want to apply,” Sinclair said. “I think I just realized that opportunities like these don’t come that often and I should just try before it’s too late, and I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, so I figured, ‘Why not?’”
Sinclair has struggled with severe performance anxiety in the past, sometimes causing her to cry at the thought of performing in front of people. Now, not only is this the first experience she’s had with challenging herself in piano beyond SRU, but she has also gathered the courage to even branch out and apply for this opportunity. She plans on learning much more about herself and her ability to perform despite her anxiety through the seminars, which greatly attracted her to DIPF.
“This experience is going to change my outlook of performing for the better,” Sinclair said, “which will lead to many more opportunities, competitions and recitals in my future.”