Carson High student paves the way for future musicians

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Colter Thomas, Carson High School senior, performs for Sierra Place residents Sunday afternoon as part of his senior project. Some of his music students also performed.

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Colter Thomas, Carson High School senior, performs for Sierra Place residents Sunday afternoon as part of his senior project. Some of his music students also performed.

Carson High senior Colter Thomas looked sheepish standing in front of a room full of seniors.

His left hand in a cast as a result of a ski accident in January, Thomas, 17, asked the eager audience if they wanted to hear one more song.

The only response was a round of applause.

Grimacing, the amateur musician sat down once more at the piano bench of the common room at Sierra Place in North Carson, he heaved a sigh, shook some life into his right hand (the good one) while resting his left on the keyboard.

"This is something I wrote," he said. "It doesn't have a name yet."

Thomas' good hand then danced across seemingly all 88 keys; with each deft keystroke, smiles appeared across the faces of his dozen-strong audience.

He stood to receive the audience approval for his encore, and, more rapturous applause.

And then, a voice from one of the audience: "I think this proves what I always say," said Sierra Place resident Margot Author. "I play the piano, and I love music. I lived all around the world - my husband was an Army colonel, we lived all over the world. Whether it was Paris or Japan, they listened to the same Beethoven, the same Mozart.

"It doesn't matter where you are - even on the moon, though I've never been there - music is the universal language."

And, like all languages, music's prose must be passed on to prosper. So, it was a natural for Thomas to want to complete his senior project as mentor, instead of pupil.

One of his charges, Seeliger School third grader, Rebecca Ostrander, 9, took up the piano for the first time last Nov. 7.

Sunday, just two and a half months after she first touched the ivories, Rebecca performed a half-dozen songs in front of seniors at Sierra Place and Eagle Valley Convalescent Center.

After her recital, Rebecca was subdued but proud of her accomplishment.

"The best part about learning to play?" she said. "I don't know, all of it was just fun."

Parents Chris and Mary Jane Ostrander were onhand to enjoy their daughters' first recital.

"Neither of us are very musical people," Mary Jane said. "So, when she begged us to do this - we said 'sure, we'll support you,' and here we are. We're just really proud of her dedication.

"And (Thomas) is a pretty incredible teacher."

Colter's unassuming nature carried over to his recollection of his first teaching experience.

"I've got to say I had good students," he said. "I mean, teaching is a lot harder than sitting down and learning. You really have to be aware of how you're teaching and what they respond to."

Did teaching improve his playing?

"For sure," Thomas said "It made me get back to the fundamentals."

It was three generations of teacher-students Sunday, as Thomas' first music teacher, Mary Law of Seeliger Elementary, was onhand with her children, twins Kerstin and Karsen, 7, performing "Oh Susanna" on the fiddle.

"Colter was one of my best students," Law said. "When he approached me to help mentor him for this project - I couldn't refuse.

"Now I think he has a little bit of understanding of what it takes."

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