What: San Juan College orchestra concert

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Little Theater, San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd.

Where: $8 regular, $6 students

More info: 505-566-3430

FARMINGTON — San Juan College orchestra director Keith Cochrane first heard Piedra Vista High School senior Miel Johnson play piano during the Young Artist Recital in February 2012.

"I was very impressed with her playing," Cochrane said.

After the recital, Cochrane approached the Farmington teenager and asked if she would be interested in playing Robert Schumann's "Concerto in A Minor" with the San Juan College orchestra.

Johnson, who had already been working on the composition, agreed. On Friday, she will be one of two featured musicians at the orchestra's concert.

In addition to Johnson, San Juan College music professor Cristine Kidd will sing "Ging Heut Morgen Übers Feld" by German composer Gustav Mahler. Translated to English, the song means "As I Went This Morning Over the Field."

When Johnson was young, she listened to her dad play the "Charlie Brown" theme song on the piano, and she asked him to teach her to play it. Using that song, her father taught her about chords and reading music.

Eventually, Johnson started taking piano lessons from Farmington piano Natalia Cruz. Under Cruz, Johnson learned more about reading music.
Piedra Vista student, Miel Johnson will preform with the San Juan College Orchestra.
Piedra Vista student, Miel Johnson will preform with the San Juan College Orchestra. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
Cruz started Johnson on "Mary Had A Little Lamb," which she played over and over again in different variations.

"Natalia has transformed me completely as a piano player," Johnson said.

As Johnson improved, Cruz encouraged her to start teaching piano. Currently, Johnson has five students. She said teaching piano challenges her because she has to learn about each student's personality and adjust her teaching to accommodate that.

One aspect of teaching, though, is consistent with every student. Before Johnson teaches them to read music notes, she asks them to memorize different tunes. Johnson said she believes this helps students learn to hear.

Johnson said piano is a way for her to escape stress. She also sings in the Piedra Vista High School choir and is a member of the school's golf team.

More than a year ago, Johnson first picked up Schumann's "Concerto in A Minor." Arranged for orchestra and piano, the tune begins with the orchestra playing a single note. Then Johnson enters on the piano, and the orchestra is silent. Eventually, the orchestra joins the piano.

"It's so powerful, but then it really fades," Johnson said.

After that, the tune becomes loud and powerful once again.

"When it's with the orchestra, it's so colorful," Johnson said.

Johnson said playing with the orchestra differs from playing solo because she interprets the music one way while Cochrane sees it another way.

"We have to meet in the middle," Johnson said.

Over the past year Johnson has learned when to lead and when to follow the director, Cochrane said.

The composition itself has also presented challenges.

"Sometimes, I have wanted to scream and tear the pages apart," Johnson said.

However, Johnson now finds it relaxing to play the concerto.

After a year of practice, it is no longer about learning, but rather about perceiving the music, she said.

Hannah Grover can be reached at hgrover@daily-times.com; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter @hmgroverr.