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Hastings student admitted to Juilliard; just 23 piano students accepted this year

Hastings High School's Colton Peltier looks over the crowd before performing at the Snow Week coronation in February. Peltier learned last week he was one of 23 piano students accepted to the Juilliard School in New York City.

Young children often have high hopes for their adult lives. Ask a 6-year-old what he wants to be when he grows up, and he'll likely give you something along the lines of "astronaut," "firefighter," or "doctor." When Colton Peltier was 6, he told the Hastings Star Gazette that he wanted to go to the Juilliard School. Last week, he saw that dream become reality.

Peltier is one of only 23 piano students who will join the school this fall. His acceptance was based upon a rigorous application process. He submitted his original application in November, with a CD recorded of his playing. Out of all the CDs the school receives, 150 musicians are selected for an in-person audition, Peltier explained.

On March 4, he sat down in front of about 15 faculty members to show them why he deserves a spot in their school. He had to prepare about an hour and a half of music to play from memory, even though he was only asked to play about 15 minutes worth.

"It's kind of stressful," he said, but added that it was good, because the process improved his repertoire.

The list of music he learned is daunting. The audition required him to prepare pieces of music from various time periods and styles. There was the baroque period, for which he played Bach's Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B-flat minor.

"It's a tricky one," Peltier said.

For his classical sonata he chose an early work, Beethoven's Sonata No. 7, Opus 10, No. 3. Most people tend to choose later sonata works, Peltier said. He wanted to give the judges variety by playing one of the earlier ones. From the Romantic period, he prepared Franz Liszt's Dante Sonata, a "huge" piece, but also a fun one to play. Then there were two etudes of contrasting styles - his selections were the Third Etude in C-minor by Sergei Prokofiev and the Octave Etude by Chopin. Finally, there was a modern piece, Gargoyles by Lowell Libermann.

How does he manage to memorize so much?

"I do a lot of slow practice," he said.

Sometimes it can be hard to hear all the notes, he explained, so slowing the tempo helps him ingrain the music in his mind. Other than that, it's a lot of practice - he's been working on the pieces since last summer.

After the audition, Juilliard selected 40 people for call-backs. Peltier was called back, and took a written music theory test - more of a placement test than a determination of acceptance, he said.

Last week, he got word that his answer was coming soon. He had to login to a web-based system to check his results, and at about 7 p.m. later that day, he had his answer.

"It's a wonderful relief, but I have to keep in mind that it's only the beginning," he said.

Juilliard is a world-renowned school for music and the arts, especially for performers. Performance is exactly what Peltier wants to do - traveling the world and playing with major orchestras.

"I'd like to play with the London Philharmonic," he said.