After playing the piano for less than a year, 15 year old Lake Shastina resident Nicolas Le Guellec has qualified to take part in Chico State’s Earl R. and Marilyn Ann Kruschke 2010 Prize in Piano Performance competition.
Le Guellec, who comes from a family of musicians, learned how to read music when he was five or six. Inspired by rock music from the ’70s and early ’80s, he plays trumpet and bass, though piano has never been his strong suit.
This year, Le Guellec began attending Golden Eagle Charter School, which allows him to take several classes at College of the Siskiyous, including piano with instructor Svetlana Smaga.
Setting his sights high, Le Guellec found sheet music to his favorite classical song, Frederic Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu,” and began to teach himself to play it.
“I spent hours and hours learning the song measure by measure, very slowly. It’s really complex... it’s an amazing song.”
After perfecting and playing the piece for Smaga, she immediately suggested he enter the Prize in Piano competition, which has a grand prize of $2,000 to go toward the winner’s education and career in classical music.
“We submitted a video of me playing,” Le Guellec said.  “Even though I was playing on a piano that was out of tune, I still got accepted.”
The competition is open to any pianist who is a California High School senior or college-level student enrolled in a California college or university, making Le Guellec one of the younger competitors.
If he does win, Le Guellec said he’d use the prize money to buy “a nice piano.”
“At my dad’s house, we have a piano that’s 130 years old. It’s out of tune by half a step, and at my mom’s house, we have a regular old piano.”
Since mastering Fantasie Impromptu, Le Guellec has moved on to learn many more pieces from classical artists, however, Chopin is his ultimate favorite.
“Chopin is my idol,” he said. “I especially love his melodies. No one is as good as he is with melody.”
Alongside Chopin, Le Guellec said he’s inspired by his uncle, who is a professional pianist, his father, who’s a drummer, and his mother, who plays the flute, guitar, and sings. He also credits his teachers.
“Everyone’s been very supportive,” he said.
In the future, Le Guellec said he wants to be a concert pianist and composer. He’d like to attend a prestigious college like Julliard.
Le Guellec will be travelling to Chico on April 3 to compete, though he said he’s not nervous.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I think it’s important to be confident.”