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Sunset fifth-grader Haydn Maust excels on the piano

by: SUBMITTED - Sunset Primary School fifth-grader Haydn Maust poses with the piano awards he has received from the Oregon Music Teachers Association competitions. On any given afternoon, the Maust family home is filled with piano music from the soundtrack to “Charlie Brown” or “Star Wars.” That same brown piano, under the extraordinarily capable hands of 10-year-old Haydn Maust, also fills the home with the music of Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Just two years ago, the fifth-grader at Sunset Primary School began competing in Oregon Music Teachers Association piano festivals. In that time, he has won five awards in baroque, classical and romantic festivals.

Most recently, he competed with a sonata by Haydn at the OMTA Classical Festival in November 2012.

Haydn Maust began playing piano at age 5 with the encouragement from his parents — who are also pianists — Betsy and Trey Maust.

“I liked it from the start,” he said. “I remember the first thing I did. It wasn’t exactly a song; it was just middle C four times.”

His talents, with help from his mother and from piano teacher Marcus Reyolds, blossomed from there. In kindergarten he wrote a poem called “I Love You Mom and Dad,” and to the surprise of his parents, composed the poem into a piece of music he performed at his first piano recital. The exhibition recital also revealed his competitive nature.

“After the recital he said, ‘I liked it but I only want to do it again if it’s competitive,’” Betsy Maust said. “I think it’s consistent with his personality. He sets a goal and works toward it.”

Haydn Maust competes in OMTA competitions every six months. Each competition is judged by a college professor and is focused around a specific period of music.

Haydn Maust selects his competition piece — typically a three- to five-minute song he must memorize and play without sheet music — with help from his piano teacher.

“Because I’m not really a good composer, my piano teacher picks out a couple of pieces and plays them for me and I choose which one I like best,” he said.

He practices with his piano teacher once a week and by himself after school and before martial arts class for up to an hour each day.

He also enjoys sharing his competition pieces, under the encouragement of Sunset music specialist James Compton, with his classmates. This year, he also played accompaniment during the school’s annual music concert.

“I’ve decided I will be playing the piano for a long time,” Haydn Maust said. “I don’t think I’ll get a job with it, though, because I’m really good with math.”

Instead, he would like to get a job solving “really, really, hard math problems.”

His family is nonetheless proud and encouraged by his drive and success.

“It’s obvious as parents we want to see him do well, but he works for it, too,” Betsy Maust said. “He has perfect pitch and I think that’s helpful, but he also works hard at it.”

“Oftentimes you see parents push their kids to practice a tremendous amount of time or play even when they don’t want to,” added Trey Maust. “But it’s fun as a parent to see he actually likes it.”

Trey Maust also attributes his son’s success to his wife, who creates educational games of musical Twister and more on the piano.

During competitions, Haydn Maust said he dresses “like my dad” in slacks, a button-up shirt and tie. His mother laughs, however, while explaining that he still wears sneakers when competing.

“I don’t get nervous when I’m performing,” he said. “When I’m at the competition, I actually do better than when I’m practicing. ... Usually I just stop thinking about other stuff.”

Trey Maust said his son’s ability to interpret the music sets him apart from other competitors, much less musicians his age.

“When he gets closer to the competition he shifts gears from the mechanical to having more expression and articulation and phrasing,” Betsy Maust said.

The family is in the process of buying a baby grand piano as Haydn Maust will soon move up into higher stages of competition. The family is also considering entering him into larger competitions.

“Maybe I’ll think about winning regionals,” Haydn Maust said.

The comment caused his father to chuckle and respond: “His teacher thinks he should go for nationals.”

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