John Carroll junior has honor of playing piano at Carnegie Hall

Al Riska plans to enter the competition to play again next year

Anna Deaver, Senior Coverage Editor

John Carroll student Al Riska had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Alexander Peskanov was also the reason for Al’s interest in the competition. “It’s kind of an interesting connection — the warm up methods I use were written by Alexander Peskanov, and my piano teacher has talked to Peskanov a few times both about those techniques and his compositions. That little personal connection led to my piano teacher finding this competition, then showing it to me.”

Al entered into a competition titled “Immortal and Living” and won the second round of the age division. Winning this led to the opportunity to perform a piano piece on stage at Carnegie Hall along with around 30 other contestants on November 20.

The “Immortal and Living” competition consisted of two rounds of video submissions. The first round consisted of performing a piece by an “immortal” or dead composer, and the second round required a piece from a living composer. The competition was put together by Ukrainian-America composer Alexander Peskanov.

Al plays a variety of instruments, including piano, French horn, alto saxophone, drums, guitar, and trombone, in addition to singing.

For the competition, Al chose to play piano because piano is her favorite. “It seems to have the most options of any instrument; it fits into almost any genre, it’s got the range of every instrument, and there are endless piano compositions from composers all over the world.”

Music is vital to Al, who said, “It’s both an emotional outlet and an intellectual process, and there are endless opportunities within the field to explore: composing, performing, jam sessions with friends, whatever.”

In addition to Al, about 30 other contestants went to Carnegie Hall from around the world, including Italy and Colombia. “Most of them were pianists; a few played piano with an orchestra, and the rest played either piano solos or duets or a trio, in one case.”

Although performing at Carnegie Hall was a daunting task, Al said, “I think I performed well. I usually get extremely nervous when performing anything solo, but over the years I’ve learned to power through the nerves, and they didn’t bring me down this time around.”

The competition will be held again next year, and Al is planning to enter again in a different age bracket and has high hopes. “I’ve already passed round one of two, so we’ll see what happens. If I win in my division, I’ll get to go back to Carnegie Hall in February.”

Al has been around music since a young age, and said, “My parents — my dad especially– are obsessed with listening to music. It was constantly around me from the moment I was born, and my dad has always been trying to find the next unique thing to listen to. What got me interested in playing music were my first music teachers in elementary school.”

Although planning to go into physics as a career, music is still an important part of the future for Al. “I plan on making electronic music in the future, and I’ve already composed some things for piano and other instruments.”