Rachel Rojas remembers very clearly when her son Heath’s love of music became apparent. He was 4 years old at the time and was fascinated by his older brother’s piano lesson.
“Heath just loved the piano,” she said.
Eleven years later, Heath still plays the piano every day and aspires to a career in music. For the past year, Heath has been under the tutelage of retired California State University, Stanislaus professor and acclaimed performer John Hillebrandt.
“I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for really working hard and sticking with it. I really pushed him hard,” Hillebrandt said. “In a year’s time, his progress has really been exemplary.”
Heath’s hard work recently won him a spot in the Valley’s Got Talent competition at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. He was one of only 90 performers — and the only pianist — chosen to compete for cash prizes in the August event.
While he didn’t win, “even though he should have” according to proud teacher Hillebrandt, the experience was one Heath will never forget.
“At the Gallo it was really different performing in front of all those people and being the only pianist,” he said. “I found out I really like to perform.”
When Heath isn’t practicing his piano technique, he can be found belting out tunes on his trumpet and playing with the Turlock High School band.
“Playing at school is a different outlet,” Heath said. “It’s different than piano; you get to be in an ensemble instead of playing alone all the time.”
Heath has been playing the trumpet since fifth grade, and is a welcome addition to Turlock High’s band, said director Daniel Baudino.
“Once you’re able to master an instrument or become extremely fluent, like Heath is, it’s easier to pick up another instrument,” Baudino said. “He’s a lot of fun to teach, and a really quick learner.”
While music is the center of Heath’s life — it’s not everything. He is also a member of the Turlock High cross country team and tennis team.
“I’m busy, but I enjoy doing all the different activities — music, sports, school,” he said.
Even when he’s just hanging out with friends, however, music is still on his mind.
“(My friends) would love piano like I do, or classical music, but today not enough people are exposed to it,” Heath said.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.