Many Payson teens can juggle sports practices, homework, part-time jobs, and social activities with the finesse of a professional event planner.
Sixteen-year-old Jesse Snively displays serious devotion in pursuing his favorite extracurricular activity, which is actually more than a hobby -- it's his passion. Jesse often spends four hours per day practicing the piano and estimates that he will spend 500 hours memorizing and perfecting his latest piece, Beethoven's "Sonata 8 in C minor."
Jesse admits that since he is home schooled, he has more flexibility when it comes to his daily practice routine.
However, spending hours practicing complex scales to build speed and dexterity and engaging in measure-by-measure memorization techniques to learn complex classical pieces takes an enormous amount of discipline. But surprisingly, not much prodding.
His mother, Judy Snively, explains, "When he started piano, it was pretty obvious right away that he had a talent inborn in him and the motivation to do it."
Although Jesse did take some lessons when he was 7 years old, he did not begin to seriously study the piano until about 4 years ago.
For the past year and a half, he has been studying with Victoria Harris of Payson. Harris enjoys working with such a talented musician.
"Jesse is a very serious student. He is very intelligent. He loves music very much," says Harris. The feeling between teacher and student is mutual.
Jesse explains that he has learned much from Harris, especially how to practice slowly and deliberately and how to break difficult pieces into one measure at a time. "I like how she writes all over my pieces to help me get through the difficult parts," he says.
Harris' teaching techniques have paid off well for Jesse. Relatively new to the competitive piano scene, Jesse participated in his first competitions this past spring. He received superior ratings at evaluation sessions sponsored by the National Guild of Piano Teachers in Prescott and by the Music Teacher's National Association Arizona State University.
For these evaluations, Jesse played four memorized pieces by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Gershwin.
Also for the first time, Jesse attended a 2-week summer music camp at Northern Arizona University. He attended theory and music appreciation classes and received critiques from experienced teachers during intense practice sessions. Jesse was also awarded an honor certificate for excellence in performance and achievement in course work.
Jesse says his favorite thing about camp was being able to "just concentrate on the piano, with no distractions."
Despite his commitment to piano, Jesse has other interests. He works part-time at the airport for Bravo Partners, where he assists the mechanics, and he is an active member of the Civil Air Patrol's Color Guard.
He enjoys learning about airplanes and feels the guard builds his leadership skills. Jesse's musical and academic accomplishments should allow him to reach his future educational goal to major in music at a four-year university.
His advice for any student interested in playing the piano is unsurprising: "You've got to work hard." Obviously, Jesse takes his own advice.