Former USC resident a piano prodigyPublished Aug 8, 2013 at 11:10 am (Updated Aug 8, 2013 at 11:10 am)
Photo courtesy Bradey Walter
“I’ve always been called that,” Walter said via phone from her home in Charlotte, N.C. “I think that’s cool. I like being special.”
Walter, who is originally from Upper. St. Clair, recently graduated from the University of North Carolina’s High School for the Arts in Winston-Salem and is soon headed to the Cleveland Institute of Music to pursue a four-year degree in piano. She’s the daughter of Paul and Diane Walter. Paul is a piano teacher and Diane a pharmacist.
“Her mother has done so much to help Bradey,” Paul Walter said, adding that she is very supportive.
Walter said she doesn’t remember when she first started to gain an interest in playing the piano.
“I do remember when I couldn’t reach the pedals,” she said, adding that the piano has been part of her life ever since she can remember.
She also possesses several gifts beyond what most people have, including perfect pitch and a photographic and audio memory.
Walter said perfect pitch is often described as seeing musical notes as colors. She said sometimes she sees a song as a color, but most of the time she can just tell what notes are being played.
“Every note sounds different to you,” she said of having perfect pitch. She said most people have what is called “relative” pitch,” which is the ability to identify a musical note by comparing it to a reference note.
As a very young child, Paul Walter realized she had perfect pitch when he played a piece of music in the wrong order and she corrected him. She said she doesn’t really remember that exact moment, but hears the story often.
Walter now practices the piano about seven hours every day on her Steinway B concert grand piano. When she practices, she plays mostly pieces from other composers, but said, “I’ve just recently started composing.” She said she’s just dabbling in composing because she’s not familiar in counterpoint, which is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent, but independent in rhythm and contour.
“At Cleveland, I will get a background in counterpoint,” she said. She said the pieces she has composed have been pretty, but she said she doesn’t like doing anything without the proper type of education.
While Beethoven is her favorite composer, she also enjoys playing Bach, Mozart and Chopin.
“I love some of Chopin’s piano music,” she said. She also jokes about the time when as a child she was “obsessed with Rachmanioff” so much so that she would write letters to him.
In addition to classical concertos, Walter is a big fan of The Beatles as well as 1940s Big Band music. She said she also has a lot of rap and hip hop music on her iPod. “It’s humorous, because it’s the opposite of classical,” Walter said, adding that her musical taste is “all over the place.”
She’s learned a lot about the piano from her dad, a long-time piano teacher.
“He’s a great teacher. He focuses a lot on exercises and techniques that focus on the agility of the fingers,” she said.
“It’s the biggest thrill of my life,” said Paul Walter of his daughter’s accomplishments. He added he’s glad she retained her interest in music.
He said she can look at a piece of music “for about a half a second and then play it back.” He added his daughter also has audio memory and even as a child she would play a piece of music back perfectly after he played it.
Prior to moving to North Carolina, the family lived in Connecticut so she could take lessons in Manhattan. As a high school senior, Walter lived on campus at the UNC High School of the Arts. Paul Walter called it “the most prestigious high school of its kind.”
“She had a great experience there,” which he said prepared her for what college will be like. Paul Walter said CIT is also a prestigious school for the arts. “It has such a great piano department.” He added Bradey that his daughter will be studying under professor Daniel Shapiro at CIT.
“I was excited when I got accepted,” Walter said of CIM.
She said although she’s majoring in piano, “They’ll educate you in different kinds of music,” and she will take classes on conducting music as well.
“It was the hardest school to get into that I applied to,” Walter said of her top choice of schools.
Paul Walter said she was accepted to all of the eight schools to which she applied.
While at school, she said she’s looking forward to performing.
After she earns her bachelor’s degree, Walter said she would like to go on to get her doctorate and hopes to perform for a living.
“There’s nothing like performing,” she said, adding that she gets a rush of adrenalin every time she performs.
When she’s not practicing or performing, Bradey said she enjoys playing with her dog Misha, a boxer.
“I love animals,” she said, adding that at one time she had a 12-inch long African millipede as a pet.
“My mom was afraid of it,” Walter laughed.
She said she also enjoys reading about animals and insects. Recently, she has taken an interest in learning German and studies that when she has some spare time.
Walter leaves for CIT on Aug. 18 for orientation and to get settled into her dorm room and classes start about a week later.