NEWBERRY — Newberry native Madeline McEntire has come a long way since she hunted the countertops and couch cushions for dimes to pay her older sister for informal piano lessons.
The recent graduate of the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts presented a senior showcase concert in downtown Greenville, the highest honor the department of music can bestow upon one of its students.
This comes after just three years of studying classical piano.
Only Governor’s School seniors in good standing are invited to prepare a piece, write up a biography and write program notes for the piece.
Auditions are held but with judges from out of state. Last year she said 12 of the 50 eligible students auditioned.
“You have one chance to compete for this,” McEntire said, “and in many ways students are competing against themselves.”
Healthy competition in academic circles became part of her life in elementary school when she did the Reading Counts program. As an avid reader, she realized she had a chance to set a school points record and said she did so by competing with another boy in her grade.
She had not yet played piano at that point.
Her first love was painting and Impressionistic art a passion she shared with her mother.
“Mom loves art and history and we attended museums together, including the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art,” she said. “My mom is big into Impressionism and into painting in general.”
Despite the desire to paint, McEntire said she was drawn to the piano when she heard her older sister practicing.
“I taught myself out of her books a lot and I asked my dad, who also took piano, for some pointers,” she said.
Before long she was signed up for lessons as well.
Her sister took piano six years but gave up the hobby to pursue sports.
For Madeline McEntire, though, the lure of the performance and the feel of her fingers moving over the keys had her hooked.
She attended an arts camp after her freshman year of high school and felt she had found her niche.
She auditioned for Governor’s School, playing scales and arpeggios and pieces from memory.
“At Governor’s School you are only going to get out of it what you put into things,” she said. “People can provide advice and guidance but unless you are willing to take the hours and time to accomplish things you are not going anywhere.”
As the showcase neared, she played the pieces at a slower, relaxed pace a few times per day just to work without wearing the piece out.
“I get nervous before I play but there is something about being on stage and playing not just playing in front of people,” she said. “That excitement can bring a piece to a level you cannot do without everyone there. The energy is different. Something clicks as you perform it. It’s the atmosphere, the perfect unifying feeling of that moment, even if a piece is not note perfect or rhythm perfect.”
She also attended Italy on a school music trip. She and her classmates sang Mass at The Vatican with the Governor’s School Choir.
In addition to music and painting McEntire’s hobbies include crafting and knitting. She also enjoys creating her own greeting cards.
McEntire will attend a six-week summer camp in Pennsylvania hosted by the Performing Art Institute of the Wyoming Seminary. She then plans to attend Loyola University in New Orleans to study piano performance.
“I feel like I took a huge step (forward) in maturity (while at Governor’s School). A lot relies upon you because students are treated like college students (more or less),” she said.
As she works on a repertoire for her college coursework she expects her practice routine to stay about the same as it has been at Governor’s School. She typically practiced four hours per day, homework permitting. If coursework was particularly busy she cut back to two hours per day. Sometimes over the weekend she’d play five to six hours as well.