Keys of Success
West Linn teen-ager Alexx Carnathan takes her piano playing to a professional level
Slouched on the dining room table and fiddling with the ends of her jeans, 14-year-old Alexx Carnathan flips through pages of music notes in pencil from a song she wrote a few years back.
Behind her, the family's grand piano sits in a converted sunroom, taken over by the young musician.
At first sight, Carnathan, a West Linn resident, seems like a typical teen-ager - she talks about friends, boys, movies, her messy room. And she says she can't go anywhere without the iPod.
But, Carnathan is also a trained pianist, with radio airplay, a CD available for purchase and 12 years of performances playing what she calls 'smooth pizazz' piano.
'A composer is never done. I always find something that I can fix and something I can change to make it sound better,' said Alexx Carnathan. 'It's never good enough. It's like art. Even Mozart - people had to take (his work) away from him.'
As a freshman at Wilsonville High School, Carnathan is currently preparing for a performance this weekend sponsored by a solo piano radio station.
She recently won as 'outstanding accompanist' in the nation for her piano playing at 'Music in the Parks' in Anaheim, Calif. The national event is an educational festival for instrumental and choral ensembles.
After all, she's been preparing for more than a decade.
black and white
At the tender age of 2, 'Alexx the musician' was born after watching the popular children's show Barney.
'My mother turned off the television but she still heard the theme song going. She looked over and there was me on the piano,' said Carnathan.
And music hasn't left their home since.
By age 6, Carnathan was pianist in her band The Mood Swings and was already a year into group piano lessons.
Soon after, Carnathan began training under the guidance of local piano celebrity Michael Allen Harrison and was fraught with more inspiration to write original material, depending on her tenor.
'I think it's depending on my mood of the day. Depending on if I'm sad or happy,' said Carnathan. 'But (my music) only really happens when I'm happy.'
She currently has more than 76 songs committed to memory and prefers playing at events where she doesn't have to bring any sheet music as a reference.
She has taught piano lessons, performed at high school graduation ceremonies and holiday events. Charity functions are something she says she enjoys.
Carnathan has performed at Ronald McDonald House benefits, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation event, and Raphael House benefits.
And her music has provided background ambiance during wedding nuptials.
'It's just romantic. I'm a mushy, gushy, hopeless romantic person,' she said.
At age 12 Carnathan released her debut CD 'Daydreams and Waterfalls,' featuring 13 original solo piano compositions.
Whatever the genre, her fingers glide across the keys as if dancing on a floor of black and white. Her musical interests include new age, jazz, pop, ragtime, classical and rock music.
And her love of all things spooky.
'My (favorite movie) is 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' (because it's) deep and twisted,' said Carnathan. 'Oh, (Tim Burton, the writer) has a beautiful brain. I love the musical part of it. All the chord changes - the way it plays.'
She laughs often and claims to be multi-dimensional. Her fascination with Japanese culture and addiction to her sketchbook are quite different than her piano compositions, she says.
'I have a split personality,' she said. '(And) I can't do anything without art … I'm constantly sketching.'
The whole family is involved on some level with her artistic endeavors.
Her brother designed a Web page to promote her music, which her mother updates. And twice a year, Carnathan sends out a newsletter to those on her e-mail list keeping them informed of upcoming shows and new happenings - events such as 'Whisperings' in Portland.
is no secret
Carnathan's music is played on 'Whisperings' Solo Piano Radio. Started by Oregon native David Nevue, the station broadcasts unsigned artists 24-hours-a-day over the Internet. The station is currently the No. 1 broadcast on www.live365.com and can be heard on iTunes and TIVO, according to the Web site.
Launched in 2003, 'Whisperings' invites artists such as Carnathan to submit music for airplay and also perform in live concerts around the country for listeners to attend.
Carnathan's CD is available for purchase through the site, accompanied by CD reviews. The site has given her global exposure.
'Have you ever seen a Euro?' Carnathan said, pointing to money clipped on the refrigerator. 'It's from someone buying (my CD) in Germany.'
As for now, Carnathan says she hopes to write more compositions and continue to improve. Someday, she said, she hopes to be an English teacher in Japan. But there will always be music.
'It's just fun,' said Carnathan. 'I enjoy (music) and it makes me happy that other people can enjoy it, too.'
Carnathan will perform at the 'Whisperings' Solo Piano Radio event Saturday at 7 p.m. at Sherman Clay Piano located at 131 N.W. 13th Ave., in Portland.
Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and are available online at www.solopianoradio.com. Tickets can also be purchased toll free at 1-866-222-5457.
For more information about Alexx Carnathan or to order her CD, visit her Web page at www.smoothpizazz.com/.