North Hopkins musician chooses piano practice over usual teen-age distractions

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

June 19, 2007 - Instead of talking on the phone or vegging out in front of a television set, Virginia “Ginny” Thomas, chooses to spend her precious spare time practicing the piano. She practices because she wants to, not because anyone is bearing down on her with a yardstick, ready to rap her knuckles if she doesn’t.

Staff Photo by Angela PItts

Virginia Thomas sits at one of her most favorite places – the keyboard.

�I�ve pretty much given up TV,� Thomas said during a recent interview. �After school, I usually have sports. After workouts, I come home, practice the piano, have dinner and go to bed.�

The practice and hard work paid off for Thomas last month, as she scored a one, the highest mark possible, at the UIL State Solo and Ensemble Contest at Texas State University in San Marcos.

The meet included musicians from Class 1A, 2A and 3A from across the state.

When asked how receiving a top score felt, Thomas answered, “Good. I didn’t expect to get a one. I was so surprised.”

Thomas, who has been playing for five years, qualified for the state meet by scoring a one at regional competition held at Paris Junior College in February.

Thomas played “Jaglied” and “Alla Tarantella,” by American composer Edward Alexander MacDowell (1860-1908) for both competitions. Competitors must choose pieces from an approved list and they must play the composition from memory.

�I had played the pieces so many times in practice, I wasn�t as nervous as I thought I�d be,� Thomas said. �They let me play two pieces this time, one fast and one slow.�

Thomas doesn’t plan to stop playing now that competition season is over. She is still taking lessons and will soon be playing for services at  Enloe Methodist Church and Lake Creek Methodist Church this summer.

�I want to get better and play as well as other people I�ve heard,� the 16-year-old Thomas said. �I love the feeling I get when I play.�

When it comes to her preferences in music, Thomas does not limit herself to just the classics.

�I really like all kinds of music,� she said. �Classical is what I mostly play now, but I like dramatic pieces and I like the blues, too.�

When asked what artists she admires, she says, “Count Basie. He’s the one that plays blues, right?” 

She also likes the ragtime style of Scott  Joplin. “My dad likes that kind of music, too.”

Thomas’ parents probably have a lot to do with her love of music.

Her father, Woodrow, a computer teacher and information technologist for Rivercrest ISD, plays guitar in a band. Her mother, Janis, an English teacher at North Hopkins, plays the piano.

�I always wanted to play like my mom,� Thomas explained. �I asked my parents for piano lessons. I wanted to go further.�

Thomas practices on the piano handed down to her by her late grandmother, Ruth Laughlin. 

Laughlin purchased the piano with  money she earned from her first job. She never learned to play, but enjoyed listening as her daughter and then her granddaughter practiced.

�She passed away two years ago with Alzheimer�s,� Thomas said. �So playing her piano every day is very special to my mom and me.�

Thomas credits her piano teacher of four years, Deanna Spraggins, for much of her success. 

�She is always encouraging, positive and happy,� Thomas says. �She pushed me to be in UIL.�

Thomas’ one teen-age vice is text messaging. “I haven't given that up,” she said. “Yet.”

The busy youngster will be spending some of this summer in New York state at volleyball camp. She also plays basketball for North Hopkins, and for several years, she’s been a member of their cross-country track team. 

As for her future, Thomas isn’t sure where she’ll go to college or what major she’ll choose, but she is emphatic about her love of the piano.

I’m not ever going to drop it. It’s my favorite thing to do.”

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