WCHS student spends summer away from home perfecting her skills on the piano, voice

By Paul Batterson, Contributing Writer

As the summer is winding down, Worthington Christian High School senior Gillian Beckman is looking forward to doing something she hasn’t been able to do most of the summer – sleep in her own bed. From June 9 to July 26, Beckman (WC ’20) has spent all but two weeks on the road perfecting her singing and piano skills.

Beckman started the summer with a June 9-16 trip to Ireland with the Columbus International Children’s Choir. After a week back home in Columbus, she spent a week playing piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music from June 23-29 and then traveled to New York to attend a vocal camp July 6-26 at the prestigious Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

“This schedule is not for everyone. At first, I was looking at my summer schedule and thought, ‘Oh my, I have a lot to do this summer,’” Beckman said. “But it’s all been good. It keeps me busy and I am never bored. (After finishing up the Eastman camp,) I’ll be happy to be home and have a little bit of a breather before school starts, but it’s been an enjoyable summer. I’ve met a lot of cool people and made some friends I’ll keep forever.”

“She’s been gone almost all summer,” her mother Dawn said. “I miss her so much.”

The senior brought two pieces to work on during the piano intensive workshop at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In addition to working on those selections, Beckman got a chance to participate in music theory and improvisational classes as well as attend a master’s class with one of the professors.

At Eastman, Beckman focused on performing in a few opera scenes and worked with different teachers and students to prepare a solo piece for a recital.

While it meant spending most of the summer away from her friends and family, the senior wouldn’t have had it any other way. She felt she grew as a musician during the two music camps.

“The most impactful part has been being able to interact with different serious musicians,” Beckman said. “They really motivate you to work harder at what you are doing. The more you see all you can accomplish, the harder you work.”

Beckman is no stranger to hard work when it comes to music. As a singer, Beckman placed first in the classical division and in the duet with partner Claire O’Shaughnessy and took first in the non-classical division at the Central Ohio Singing Competition on March 3. Beckman, who also performs with the Worthington Christian choir, has a passport full of stamps from the Columbus International Children’s Choir’s trips to China, Latvia, and South Africa. She has performed pieces in Chinese, French, German and Russian.

“Russian was probably the most difficult because it’s a very dark language,” she said. “It’s not hard to learn the words, but it’s hard to make the words sound beautiful.”

Beckman inherited a love of singing from her mother, who is a musician herself. The two often sing duets with each other in recitals and Dawn occasionally accompanies her daughter on piano at competitions.

“Mom’s always singing in the house,” Beckman said. “She even sings when she does the dishes. Sometimes to wake me up, she’ll just sing to me. Music has brought us closer together. It’s fun to have conversations about music and get her advice on how I can improve a certain passage of a song.”

“Music’s very hard work and it takes hours of practice, but there’s an element of natural talent,” Dawn Beckman added. “I noticed Gillian had an exceptional ear from a very early age. When she was three or four, she would harmonize with me when I’d sing nursery rhymes to her.”

While her vocal talents came naturally to Beckman, piano has required a lot of work. While she can master singing a song in a month or two, Beckman said conquering a difficult piano piece can take up to six months.

With piano, Beckman said it’s not just a matter of learning the notes, it’s making those notes sound perfect. As she enters her senior year, Beckman ponders possibly double majoring in science and either singing or piano.

“My dad (Todd) was a dentist, so I get my love for science from him,” she said. “Up until this year, I said I wasn’t going to go into music in college. Now I can’t imagine my life without music.”