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Madison Daily Leader: Augustana Freshman Wins Piano Award

More Than Just a Phase: Hunter Wins Piano Award

Carolyn Hunter recently put to rest a 30-year hiatus since the last time a Madison resident won the National Guild of Piano Teachers High School Diploma.

Carolyn, 18, competed this August in Sioux Falls for the Guild's High School Diploma by performing 15 selections -- 10 pieces, or songs, and 5 phases -- from memory.

Her mother, Mary Hunter, won the same award in 1978. Mary has taught piano since 1990 and is the now chairperson of Madison's Guild chapter. She doesn't know of anyone in town who has done the Guild's High School Diploma competition since 1978.

Hunter, a freshman at Augustana College majoring in pre-nursing, said she prepared for the competition for about a year. Her mother, grandmother Dorothy Christopherson and Augustana piano instructor Arlene Krueger helped her along the way.

Winning the Guild's High School Diploma is an unusual accomplishment, Mary Hunter said, because the standards are raised.

"Although there is some flexibility in the pieces chosen, the final program needs to be approved by the Guild headquarters in Austin, Texas," she said. "It's a huge undertaking."

Krueger said the competition had a certain repertoire, and selections to play were chosen carefully.

"It's a very extensive audition," Krueger said, who has been at Augustana for 22 years.

Hunter said her application for the competition was submitted in December 2007 during her senior year at Madison High School. Her pieces included a Bach Prelude and Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier and a Mozart Sonata. She also played pieces composed by Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, Frederic Chopin, Edvard Grieg and George Gershwin. Her phases consisted of all major and minor scales including contrary motions, chords/cadences/modulations, transposing, sight-reading and ear-training.

The competition was privately held at the judge's home and was only between the judge and the student, Hunter said. She found out right after her performance that she had passed.

"I was really excited," she said. "My mom and I got in the car and honked the horn."

She said earning the Guild's High School Diploma was a "good sense of accomplishment."

"We're really, really proud of her," said her mother, who waited with Christopherson in another room during the audition.

Hunter's achievement comes after a lifetime of practicing the piano. She grew up playing a Kawaii grand piano purchased by her parents, Jon and Mary Hunter, in 1992.

"I've been taking lessons since kindergarten, but I've played with my mom even before that and my grandma," she said.

Hunter has a piano scholarship to Augustana and continues to take lessons and perform. She is also in the flute choir and sings in the Augustana choir.

"I've been in band and I've been in choir, but piano's always been my main instrument and the family instrument," Hunter said.

"I just think playing the piano is a lifelong enjoyment even if it's just for herself," her mother said. "I'm just really glad she's able to play as well as she does."

Hunter has participated in the Guild for 13 years and has taken lessons from another Madison Guild teacher, Colleen Tucker.

"[The Guild] allows kids of all abilities to perform for a judge. They can play from their music or from their memory," said Mary Hunter, who works as a nurse at the Madison Community Hospital with home health and hospice.

The function of the Guild is to establish goals and awards for piano students of all levels, Mary Hunter noted, and determine direction and a measurement for success in music study. She said Guild competitions are noncompetitive and students are graded on their ability in areas such as accuracy, rhythm, style and technique.