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Hastings pianist to air on NPR

The last time we heard from Colton Peltier, he was 11 years old and had just won the first Minnesota Idol contest. He was also learning an incredibly difficult piece of music by composer Franz Liszt titled "Mephisto Walz."

"If I learn it, I get a dog," Colton had told the Star Gazette.

It took about a month and a half to learn, Colton said, but now he has Cinnamon, a cream colored Shi Tzu, who loves to sit under the piano while Colton practices.

At age 16, Colton is still moving forward in his musical career. In the past year he played with two other metro area teens in the Auralia Trio. The trio has received an honorable mention at the Chicago National Chamber Music Competition and in May reached the semifinals of the Fishoff National Chamber Music Competition. They've recorded a piece of the first movement from Maurice Ravel's Piano Trio in A minor for NPR's From the Top program. The show will air the week of Oct. 4 on participating stations and at

"It was really fun because it was just three of us," Colton said.

He said he normally plays solo performances or with an orchestra. Until he played with the trio, small group performance was somewhat foreign.

"I hadn't done a lot of chamber music before that," he said.

Keeping up in school

Three years ago, as Colton was about to enter high school, his parents realized that a traditional schooling schedule wasn't going to work for Colton. It was a hard decision, Amy said, one that wasn't made any easier by the fact that she's a school board member.

"But his case was so unique," she said.

He started studying at home under the direction of a few tutors, some from Hastings High School. He does get some classroom interaction from chemistry, which he takes at the high school. That decision has worked out well, Amy and Colton said.

"It was nice to meet up with my friends from middle school," Colton said.

Being able to stay at home gives Colton a chance to set his own schedule - and it's a rigorous one.

"He goes from about seven in the morning to 10 at night," Amy said. "He doesn't stop."

Six hours of each day are spent at the piano, practicing, and about six hours are dedicated to his education. With a few breaks for meals, there's not much time for other activities, but he doesn't seem to mind.

"I think Colton has learned a pretty good balance," Amy said.

Moving forward

In school, he's considered a junior/senior, Amy said. Over the summer he took his junior level classes, which will allow him to graduate a year early. Now he's preparing for his college entrance exams. There are three schools he plans to apply to: Juilliard, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Peabody Institute.

"The next couple years will be big years," Amy said.

So far, Amy has served as his manager, helping him decide what shows to perform in and competitions to enter. Soon though, they'll start looking for a professional manager to represent him.

Professional musicians usually start their performance career in their 20s. Colton got an early start.

"His resume is huge for someone his age," Amy said.

With graduation approaching, Colton is about to close the door to one part of his life and step into the next.

"It's coming to an end, but it's really just beginning," Amy said.

The musical life is not easy, but it's exactly what Colton wants. Why does he love it so much?

"It's just an attraction for me," he said. "It's just a part of my life. It's a great way to let people know how you're feeling through a different medium."