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Organizer creates dueling piano competition for community

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Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2012 12:00 am

A Rio Rancho woman, who was once told by her music instructor that she was a “selfish musician” because she always played for herself and did not perform publicly, is putting together a music program so that the community can benefit from outstanding music.

Even if it still isn’t hers.

Rita French, a sales coordinator for the Hilton Garden Inn in Rio Rancho, has organized a competition for piano players that will include music from the classics to jazz to current top hits.

Billed as “Rockin’ Rio Rancho Dueling Pianos,” the event pits four local pianists against each other with the audience picking the winner. It will be at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1771 NM 528, from 6 to 9 p.m. on July 28. Tickets are $5 per person or $7 per couple, while children 12 years old and under are free. Smokehouse Barbecue will be offering all-you-can-eat finger food and hors d’oeuvres for $6 per person, and there will be a cash bar.

Movie theater and food vendors are providing tickets and gift cards for people in the audience as well as the performers.

But the evening will belong to four auditioned performers playing on two grand pianos in the hotel’s ballroom.

Performers include Alice Huang, a school counselor who performed in California at weddings and other events before moving here recently; Phyllis Sanchez, who performs classics and jazz with the Albuquerque Symphony Orchestra and recently at Albuquerque’s Centennial Celebration; Karl Zink, an Albuquerque firefighter who plays jazz regularly at the Corrales Bistro; and Wes Spaulding, who performs at Chow’s Bistro but plays goofy tunes such as the sound track to the Super Mario Brothers video games.

French, the organizer, said the competition should be good because the performers have to win over the audience to win the competition.

She said she was inspired by music as a youth and wants to provide similar experiences for people in the community. She started playing the violin at age 10 and now owns four violins. She later took up the piano.

What’s the difference between playing the two instruments? “Well, every note you play on the piano is on key,” French said.

While attending schools in Rio Rancho, she said she took lessons from Gloria Velasco in Albuquerque. Velasco always told her she was a “selfish performer” because she played for herself and not for others.

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