Shy pianist, 10, earns top honors ... again

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:47

He can’t explain it, but Clint Roe feels the music in his fingers, By Beth Kalet Hardyston — Don’t be fooled by his quiet manner, the shy way he answers questions with just a word or the fact that he’s only in fourth grade. Ten-year-old Clint Roe knows what he likes and he likes playing the piano. He likes Chopin and Joplin and he thinks pop music is “weird.” He likes playing baseball and golf and he skis, too, but it’s at the piano that he’s happiest. Clint recently won a first-place award competing against other fourth- through sixth-graders in Sussex County — another in his long list of honors. For this competition, he needed to play from memory pieces in two distinct styles. He chose Chopin’s “Nocturne Op. 9 No 2,” a quiet moody piece he plays slowly, more slowly than his teacher Margaret Korczynski prefers. But that’s his choice. “Palm Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin was the other piece Clint chose for this contest. It’s a familiar ragtime tune that creates a different mood altogether than the Chopin piece. Some day, when his hands get bigger, he can try other Joplin pieces, the ones that require stretches his 10-year-old hands can’t make, said Clint’s mother Ingrid Roe. Those sorts of limitations don’t deter Clint. He just works a little harder, figures out his own way of getting his hands around the keyboard. It’s that determination, backed up by a natural ability that makes Korczynski, Clint’s teacher, answer yes, when asked whether she considers him a prodigy. “He is unusual. When the mother buys a book and the child finishes the next week the book that should be finished within two or three months, because he takes the book and he plays through it all... When you say please do not play Chopin’s ‘Nocturne,’ it’s too sophisticated for you. Wait. So he goes on the computer and he prints the music and then he plays it for you. Oh my gosh my hair stands on end.” Korczynski teaches in McAfee and at schools in the area. She says that in her 30 years of teaching piano she’s seen two students she would call prodigies. While she is a big booster of all her students, and many win honors at countywide events, Clint is different. “He’s self-motivated. A phenomena. He works hard and he does not mind. He’s very thoughtful. The speed of his movement forward is about four times the average student.” The future? But Clint has no designs on a fancy career or dreams of attending Juilliard. He just enjoys playing the piano, He likes the money he’s won, $75 for his most recent honor. And, clearly he likes proving that he can do things people say he can’t. He’s proud of his work, but he’s not much of a show-off. When his mother described the requirements for the Sussex County contest — playing the two pieces from memory, she noted that one of the pieces was about five or six minutes long. “Five minutes, 10 seconds,” Clint shot back. “He has incredible patience,” Ingrid Roe says, as Clint plays slowly, with a delicate touch, the Chopin piece that won him the most recent award. Meanwhile, in the background, his younger brother Hank grows tired of playing second fiddle. He takes out his own camera to snap photos of his brother at the piano, then snaps a metal tape measure and swings it around making a whirring sound. Finally he takes a few turns at the foosball table, just a few feet from the baby grand piano in the carpeted den. Clint, unflappable, plays on. It doesn’t bother him, Clint said. He’s used to it. While Clint’s parents Ingrid and Chuck Roe won’t push him to practice and don’t want to do anything that interferes with either of their sons having a normal childhood, they do encourage him. They recognized his interest and prodigious talent, when as a kindergartner he clearly enjoyed playing a small keyboard. They bought a bigger, electronic Yamaha keyboard and within two months, Clint had completed a beginner book that normally takes nine months. From there, it was a real piano and lessons. Once a year, the Roes invite neighbors and their children in for a recital. And, Ingrid Roe now takes lessons, too. Piano teacher Korczynski approves of parents who get involved in understanding what their children are doing at the keyboard. Clint Roe started studying the piano four and a half years ago with Margaret Korczynski of the Sussex County Music Workshop. He favors music of the romantic period, particularly Chopin, because he can put a lot of expression into his playing. All the award winners from the recent competition sponsored by The Music Foundation of Sussex County will be performing on Sunday, June 28 at 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Sparta.