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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Young talents primed for the classics

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Pianist Andrew Ramos, 14, of Waipahu will perform in "From the Top," a National Public Radio program that will be taped Wednesday at the Hawai'i Theatre. Ramos, a ninth-grader at Moanalua High School, has been playing piano since he was 7.

Alex Ramos

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Laura Keller, a violinist who attends Punahou School, also will perform in the Honolulu concert.

Bruce Keller

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'FROM THE TOP'

7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Hawai'i Theatre

$15, $35, $40, $45 ($5 discounts for all but the $15 ticket for Hawai'i Public Radio and Hawai'i Theatre Center members)

528-0506, www.hawaiitheatre.com

Also: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Castle Theatre, Maui Arts and Cultural Center; $10, $20, $30, $40 ($5 discounts for all but the $10 ticket for HPR and MACC members); (808) 242-7469

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WHO'S PERFORMING

In Honolulu:

  • The Punahou Strings, conducted by Dr. Jonas Carlson

  • Laura Keller, 17, violinist, of Honolulu, senior at Punahou School

  • Andrew Ramos, 14, pianist, ninth-grader at Moanalua High School

  • Elizabeth Hertzberg, 16, soprano, from San Francisco, junior at Marin Catholic High School

  • Nathan Vedal, 16, double bassist, from Seattle, junior at Denver School of the Arts

    On Maui:

  • Zoe Martin-Doike, 16, violinist, of Honolulu, home-schooled sophomore

  • Aimi Watanabe, 16, pianist, of Lahaina, junior at Seabury Hall

  • Kathryn Schulmeister, 16, double bassist, of Kailua, junior at Punahou

  • Guillaume DeZwirek, 16, guitarist, of San Jose, Calif., senior at Abraham Lincoln High School

  • Luke Harvey and Kevin Hong, both 12, four-hand pianists, of Chicago; seventh-graders; Luke attends Hickory Creek Middle School in Frankfort, Ill., and Kevin attends Whitney Young Magnet High School, Chicago

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    Andrew Ramos, a 14-year-old pianist from Waipahu, is one of several young classical musicians who will be featured in "From the Top," a coveted National Public Radio taping and broadcast, set for Wednesday at the Hawai'i Theatre.

    "It's very exciting, so I've been practicing a lot," said Andrew, with enthusiasm to spare. "Of course, I'm a little nervous."

    Andrew, a student of Ellen Masaki (who's groomed a lion's share of student keyboarders over the years), is quick to admit, however, that while he's been playing piano half his life, since he was 7, it's mostly a hobby.

    "I want to be a doctor, maybe," he said.

    Still, he practices three hours a day, sacrificing play time for commitment to the ivories, at least in this phase of his life.

    His grandfather, who used to play piano, was his first influence.

    "I was around 7 and at first, it was pretty enjoyable," he said, reflecting on the arduous task of practicing.

    "Then, it was kinda a chore."

    He took lessons at 8, became a Masaki pupil at 9, and under her tutelage, he has earned his share of laurels.

    He was a Honolulu Symphony Concerto Competition honorable mention winner in 2004. In 2001 he won third place in the Hawai'i Music Teachers Association competition.

    He also plays cello, studying with Nancy Masaki, and is second chair of Moanalua High School's concert orchestra.

    Further, he's a member of the Hawai'i Youth Symphony Concert String Orchestra.

    With three siblings who also delve into music, Andrew maintains his own pace in the family gallery. Stewart is 12 and a violinist; Tyler is 10 and a pianist; Brent is 8 and a violinist.

    "We sometimes play together, but that's not normal," he said of his younger brothers.

    Andrew admits that his dad, Alex (who teaches computer science at the University of Hawai'i), prodded him to keep practicing and playing.

    Masaki taught him discipline and commitment.

    "She is a good teacher," he said. "One of the most important things she taught me was to work something fast, you have to start slowly. And she doesn't put up with someone who's lazy."

    He admitted he's had his lazy spells over the years, but realized he had the ability to tickle the ivories, too. So he's devoted to his talent.

    "My schedule is tough," he said of juggling homework with lessons and rehearsals. "I've had to (learn to) budget time."

    When he's not shuttling from a class and tending to school-related chores, Andrew said he loves playing basketball. "But I don't plan to try out," he said of joining a team.

    At Moanalua, Andrew particularly enjoys math and its application to music. "I guess it's the timing how long you hold the beat, how you measure it. That's kinda like math."

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.