Pianists Win First Place in Music Competition “for the Glory of God”
Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer
- Madeleine Arnold and Alinda Heder won first place in the Music Teachers National Association competition.
- They have been best friends since preschool and grew up playing the piano together.
- Their motto is one that Bach wrote on the back of all his manuscripts of music: “For the glory of God alone.”
“What we focused on was that we wanted to play music—not to win competitions, because that’s not the most important thing for us—but so that we can glorify God in playing beautiful music.” —Alinda Heder of the Timpanogos 6th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Timpanogos Stake
The motto Soli Deo Gloria was in the minds of Madeleine Arnold, 17, and Alinda Heder, 17, as they prepared to perform their 25-minute piano duet program for a panel of judges at the Music Teachers National Association’s senior piano duet competition on March 22 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Bach wrote it on the back of all of his manuscripts of music,” Alinda said. “It means ‘for the glory of God alone.’”
Whatever nerves they felt before the show were settled as the two friends prayed that their performance would glorify God. “It was kind of a scary experience,” Madeleine said. “We were a little bit nervous, but we knew that we’d worked really hard and paid that price, … but when we go in, we turn it over to Heavenly Father.”
Alinda and Madeleine won first place in the MTNA competition, along with $1,000 each. They played Igor Stravinsky’s 3rd movement of Petrouchka, Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz no. 1, Maurice Ravel’s “The Enchanted Garden,” and Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major.
Madeleine Arnold of the Highland 6th Ward, Highland Utah Central Stake, and Alinda Heder of the Timpanogos 6th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Timpanogos Stake, have been best friends since preschool and playing the piano for nearly as long. Being able to participate in the competition as friends was equally as exciting as being in the competition to begin with, they said.
“She was just my backyard neighbor,” Alinda said of Madeleine. “[Her family] moved into the neighborhood and we just became fast friends.”
“We’ve been best friends ever since we were little,” Madeleine said, “and we’ve grown up playing piano together. … Our first duet we played when we were about 8 years old.” That duet was “Festival Overture” written by Dennis Alexander, who also happened to be one of their judges in March.
In order to prepare for the national competition in March, the two friends began practicing their pieces for three to four hours a day. They then performed at the state level of competition in Utah in October 2014. After winning that, they moved on to Santa Barbara, California, where they competed in the southwest region in January. When they won at regionals, they moved on to perform in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 22.
While doing their best was important to both Madeleine and Alinda, winning a competition wasn’t their main focus. “What we focused on was that we wanted to play music—not to win competitions, because that’s not the most important thing for us—but so that we can glorify God in playing beautiful music,” Alinda said. “He gave us our talents, and we felt so blessed that as friends we could play these songs together. We just wanted to inspire whoever was listening.”
“We feel that one of the ways we bear our testimonies is through music,” Madeleine said. “Music can be really powerful and uplifting. That’s our main focus when we’re performing. Of course we’re thinking of all the details when we’re performing, but ultimately it’s really about the spirit of the music and … [that] the audience is uplifted and inspired when we play. …
“We pray that when we perform that the Spirit will be there.”
While at the national competition in Las Vegas, Alinda and Madeleine noticed that they seemed to be different from everyone else. For one, they and their mothers worked hard to find matching dresses that were modest (and comfortable). “We would be walking by and people would say, ‘They must be from Utah.’ … We loved that because we wanted to stand out and stand for virtue,” Alinda said.
“One thing that the gospel has done for us is that it’s given us the right perspective,” Madeleine said. With that perspective, both young women participate in service groups, dance teams, and many other extracurricular activities besides playing the piano.
“We just have to explain that we have balance,” Alinda said. “We love piano, but it’s not the most important thing.”
Alinda’s and Madeleine’s performance at this competition also marked the end of an era for the two friends. “The reason [this competition] was kind of special is because we decided to do this competition, and then not too long after we decided, my dad, [Bill O. Heder], was called to be a mission president in Athens, Greece,” Alinda said. She and her family will move to Athens just before July, where they will live for the next three years. While they could have decided to compete during their senior year in high school, they instead chose to compete during their junior year. “I was really happy we decided to do [the competition],” Alinda said, “because it was the last chance we would have had and we didn’t even know.”
Alinda and her family are already learning Greek. She even writes letters to one of the young women in the Greece Athens Mission. “I know it will be hard,” she said, “but the experiences that I’ll have over there, you just can’t get over at Pleasant Grove High School.”
Alinda said that this experience with the national piano duet competition strengthened her testimony of one thing: “When you work hard and you dedicate your efforts to the Lord, He amplifies them.”