The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

April 20, 2013

Sounds of Music: Young musicians to perform in Nimble Fingers Concert

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — The sound of music from the fingers of talented youth musicians will fill the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church during the Anderson County Arts Council’s second annual Nimble Fingers Concert.

The concert will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at FUMC’s sanctuary, located at 422 S. Magnolia St.

Featured local artists will be Aaron Jackson on the organ and Thomas Willingham on the piano.

“Both were in the first Nimble Fingers Concert and both have continued their interest in music,” Anderson County Arts Council board president Rosemary Biel said.

Guest artists from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex — Jessica and Rachael Zhang — also will perform.

“They were invited because they have won in the Dallas Symphonic Festival Piano Competitions. Their first visit to Palestine was about five years ago,” Biel said, noting the family was in Palestine recently for Dogwood Trails Celebration festivities. “I really want the rural kids here to hear the metro kids play and vice versa.”

Select students under Palestine area music teachers Julie Bell, Michelle Bolton and Paula Ellis also will be on the program.

“This will be a mixed genre concert, not just straight classics,” Biel said. “It will be the Saturday night before Mother’s Day, so I would encourage everyone to come, relax and enjoy the music of these young people who we may not get a chance to hear again as they go on further with their music.”

Tickets at the door are $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children in pre-school or younger. Proceeds support the arts in Anderson County.

Here are biographies on each participating artist:

• Aaron Jackson — Aaron Jackson, 14, is the son of Devin and Melanie Jackson of Palestine. He has been studying piano since kindergarten at age 5 with Michelle Bolton of Michelle’s Piano Studio in Palestine and has been studying the organ for the past four years. He plays 57 different instruments, including playing the organ in the United States Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colo.   

His organ adviser is Benjamin Kolodziej, Dean of the Dallas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and Perkins Chapel organist at Southern Methodist University.

He has studied with Dr. Loraine Brugh and Dr. Michael Burkhardtat Valparaiso University, Indiana. A member of the American Guild of Organists, Aaron studied the past two summers with Dr. Joyce Jones at Baylor University, and will be attending Baylor’s Summer Organ Institute to study with Dr. Isabelle Demers in June. Aaron debuted his first Lenten composition for the organ titled “Where You There when Jesus Loved Me?” in April 2012.

Aaron is an 8th-grade student at Palestine Junior High School, where he plays percussion in the Advanced Band, keyboard in the Palestine High School Jazz Band and Palestine High School Marching Band. Aaron retains 1st chair percussion in the All-Region Honors Band, and received a “1” ratings in solo and ensemble competitions. He is president of the National Junior Honor Society and has been nominated to the National Young Leaders State Conference.

Aaron is a Life Scout and Senior Patrol Leader in Troop 440 of the Boy Scouts of America. He has earned his Arrow of Light, 19 merit badges, DenChief shoulder cord,  Youth Religious Knot, and is a member of The Order of the Arrow Brotherhood.

Aaron  moved a 1929 Pilcherpipe organ, Opus 1502 during Spring Break in March from Fort Worth to Palestine. The pipe organ was given to Aaron from the Chambers family for restoration. This organ joins a 2 manual and 3 manual Rodgers organs, two electronic keyboards and a piano residing within the Jackson home.

Aaron and his family are members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Palestine, where he serves in the choir, acolytes, plays hand chimes in the Reformation Ringers and plays organ and piano during the worship service.

Aaron has his own YouTube channel under the name “organspieler,” which is a German word meaning organ player or organist.

• Thomas C. Willingham — Thomas C. Willingham is the son of John and Rocelle Willingham of Palestine. Thomas is now 10 years old and attends school at the University of Texas at Tyler Innovation Academy Palestine campus. He began picking out tunes on the family piano at the age of 3. Michelle Bolton has been his piano teacher since the age of 4. He began playing publicly at age 5. Thomas has been invited to perform at many school and community events over the past few years, including multiple recitals, shows sponsored by the local art council, events at the Museum of East Texas Culture, private parties, the first Nimble Fingers concert, and of course many school functions. Thomas has always enjoyed the fact that music has the ability to touch and move the emotions of those listening.

“I enjoy the stories inside the music,” Thomas said.

• Jessica Zhang — Jessica Zhan is a 10-year-old fourth grader who enjoys playing the piano and reading books. She has played the piano for almost six years and is currently studying with Yifan Liu. She has won several piano competitions including Dallas Piano Solo Competition and Dallas Symphonic Festival. She has played a wide variety of songs, performed to local senior citizens and hopes to become a successful pianist. She will play Sonata in C major, K 330 first movement by Mozart.

• Rachel Zhang — Rachel Zhang is 8 years old. She is a third-grade student at George Anderson Elementary School located in Allen. Rachel loves drawing and she is a winner of the Award of Excellence at the 2010-2011 Texas PTA Reflections Program. She started her piano lessons with Ms. Jiang when she was six. She has won several piano competitions including the first place at 2013 Dallas Symphonic Festival Piano Competition in Elementary Division. She will play Sonatina in C major, Opus 55, No. 3, movement 1, by Friedrich Kuhlau.



Sponsors of the second annual Nimble Fingers Concert include: Sam Aryanpur, Dogwood Diner; Rosemary J. Biel; Mrs. Billy H. “Jackie” Gragg; Sharon Grizzle; Jim Parsons, attorney; Carolyn Salter, M.D.; Amy Skubiata; Ellen M. Weber, D.D.S.; Walmart.

Other supporters of the Anderson County Arts Council include: Mary Jean Mollard, Zach Leslie, D.C.; Judge Mark A. and Jennifer Calhoon; and Mr. and Mrs. John Willingham, Kaibagan’s.