By CATHERINE ELLERTON
Moapa Valley Progress
Two exceptional musicians with a love of sharing their passion for music with others stopped in Moapa at the Ute Perkins Elementary School on Monday, Feb. 26. They shared with this young audience the rules of life and performing – being happy, putting in your all (going big), believing in yourself (confidence), having fun. They then engaged these young ‘Patriots’ in some of the vocabulary terms of music – allegro (fast) vs. andante (slow) by moving back and forth between the two terms. The two engaging musicians took on explaining the terms used in music: piano (soft) vs. forte (loud). To the tune “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and by transitioning between the two terms, they guided one of the teachers on a search for a hidden toy. This reporter was just getting into it when the class was over – too soon. I left intrigued with these performers and what their offering that evening at the MVHS Ron Dalley Theatre was going to be like.
Brandon Lee is an award winning pianist who teaches at Dixie State University, Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts and Vista Charter School. In addition he teaches piano in St. George and solos with various orchestras throughout the Southwest.
His wife, McKenzie, is also a teacher with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. She has taken some time off to enjoy being a first-time Mom. But she still finds time to perform in various musical and comedy theater productions.
To this evening’s performance they brought Katelyn Syphus, from Northern Utah – a concert violinist – who plays with the orchestra at Temple Square. They all met and became friends while carpooling to musical events.
I sat, quietly waiting for the evening to begin thinking about the inspirational program to the children, when the lights dimmed and the fireworks began! Brandon Lee demonstrated what 9 hours daily practice can do. He enthralled the audience with a very vibrant rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Sonata – Final Movement.” He followed that up with a heart wrenching performance of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune.”
Brandon joined with his wife, McKenzie, and violinist Katelyn in several delightful numbers proving the flexibility musicians possess. A delightful “Room 14G” showed the versatility of McKenzie not only vocally but in her skills as a musical theatre performer. This stage savvy was once again demonstrated in an amusing performance of “Taylor, the Latte Boy.” The three artists worked together to bring to the audience a very moving rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and in selections from “Le Miserables.”
Interspersed throughout the evening were additional solo numbers from pianist Brandon notably of Franz Liszt’s “Concerto Paraphrase” of “Rigoletto” (Verdi) and Frederic Chopin’s “Piano Sonata Movement #4.”
Not to be outdone, violinist Katelyn Syphus took a moment to discuss the ‘feud’ between the classical violinist and a fiddler. She then put her talent where her mouth was and gave a standing ovation performance of “Millionaire’s Hoedown.”
This outstanding musical day was brought to a peaceful end with the trio joining together in a prayer song: “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again.”