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Merit scholar semifinalist Daniel Koch blossoms at the piano

Barlow senior is a semifinalist for National Merit Scholarship
by: Carole Archer, Daniel Koch relaxes when he sits in front of a piano. The Barlow senior, who teaches piano lessons, is up for a National Merit Scholarship.

In early September, two students from the Gresham-Barlow School District received word that they had been named semifinalists in the highly competitive National Merit Scholarship program.

These two students, Daniel Koch from Barlow High and David Marsulis from Gresham High, are among the 16,000 National Merit semifinalists chosen from a pool of 50,000 students who scored extraordinarily high marks on their PSAT test.

Koch and Marsulis are now in the running for thousands of dollars in scholarship awards, and if included in the group of 8,200 National Merit winners, they could receive a full four-year college scholarship.

This week, The Outlook highlights the accomplishments of Daniel Koch. Next week we will feature David Marsulis.

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Daniel Koch's face relaxes the minute he slides behind the keys of his school's well-worn piano.

It is in front of a piano that this 17-year-old Barlow High senior transforms from a slightly shy teenager into a thoughtful musician.

'I've been playing since first grade. My mom taught me,' Koch says after playing his favorite song, a wistful, emotive piece by Franz Liszt. 'I learned pretty quickly, and by sixth grade I had another teacher, John Corban.'

Corban, a Gresham-area piano teacher still instructs Koch, but now the student has also become a teacher.

'I've been teaching piano at my house, mostly to children, since my sophomore year,' Koch says. 'We have a baby grand at home. My grandmother gave it to us.'

At school, this National Merit semifinalist is, of course, a stellar student. He excels at all things computer-related, and with his 4.0 grade point average, is in the running for class valedictorian.

'I am studious,' Koch says. 'I like to read and play the piano … and I also play the flute.'

He may be a computer and music whiz, but Koch is also a teenager.

'I like to think I have a good sense of humor,' he says when asked to describe himself. 'In my free time I hang out with friends and play 'HALO,' a computer game.'

At school, Koch participates in the symphonic and jazz bands. He is the son of John and Wendy Koch. He has four siblings, Melissa, a 2003 Barlow graduate; David, a 2005 Barlow grad; Jared, an eighth-grader at Gordon Russell Middle School; and Natalie, a fourth-grader at Kelly Creek Grade School.

After high school, Koch hopes to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he will either study engineering or computer science.