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CHS student wins national musical competition

Date: 2/9/2011

Feb. 9, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE — About two years ago, Monica Czausz was attracted to a musical instrument that one could argue few high school students know much about, much less would consider playing.

In that time, though, the Chicopee High School junior has not only learned the intricacies of the pipe organ, she has been recognized for her skill in playing. On Jan. 29, Czausz won the Oklahoma City High School Organ Competition, a national event attracting musicians from around the country.

Czausz has studied the piano since age 6 and has played the flute as well. The pipe organ, though, is clearly her real love.

What attracted her to the instrument was "probably the level of focus that's required," she told Reminder Publications.

She loves classical music and explained, "You can do so much on the organ."

With its multiple keyboards and stops, a pipe organ can produce a collection of sounds few other single instruments can do.

"You're your own symphony," she explained. She added the organist "has the power to control that diversity [of sound]."

Mastering the instrument requires dedication and discipline. When she started playing, Czausz practiced three times a week for two hours a session. For her first two years, she went to Assumption Church and practiced on the organ in that closed church.

Because the church was closed, the pipe organ did not receive the required maintenance it needed and Czausz had to stop using it. She and her parents found an electronic organ that would allow her to continue her practice and they set it up in the family's garage.

She practices daily and hasn't let the winter's temperatures impede her progress. She dresses appropriately for the cold and said with a laugh that she "looks like a snowman."

She studies with Peter Beardsley, the musical director at Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield.

Although she would like to major in music in college and have a career in music, she said her plans for the future "have yet to be determined." She has started a musical vocation, as she is the organist and choir director at St. Paul's Church in Holyoke. She is a member of Springfield Symphony Chorus and the Springfield Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

She said her role at St. Paul's is "the perfect job."

Local audiences will be able to hear Czausz perform at a recital at Christ Church Cathedral on Chestnut Street in Springfield at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25. Admission is free. In the hour-long concert, she will be performing Marcel Dupre's "Prelude in Fugue in B Major" and the "Third Symphony" by Louis Vierne, among other selections.

She said she is working to build an "intensive repertoire, which takes a fair amount of time."

The question of whether or not the teenager ever "rocks out" while playing the organ draws a big laugh. Czausz said that when she plays the piano, she'll improvise and rock and pop musical themes will be part of that. The complexity of the organ makes it more difficult to play contemporary pop music she said.

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