Sounds of Success

Sophomore’s piano performance wins Branham’s Got Talent



Sophomore Cian Saito won the $100 prize for his piano solo rendition of “Fantaisie Impromptu.”

Alli Wang and Ava Stark

Sophomore Cian Saito’s virtuosic rendition of Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu” on piano earned him the $100 prize at Wednesday’s Branham’s Got Talent competition, his performance beating out more than 20 other contestants.

The annual event featured Indian dancing to electric guitar improvisations, with band instructors Mike Repucci and Chris Nalls, math and engineering teacher Barbara Schremp, and long-term substitute Fleurette Sevins serving as judges.

Saito learned the complex piece at six, learning the piece by ear and occasionally using sheet music as a reference. He said he would revisit the piece over the years as his skills improved.

“It’s been a piece I’ve known for so long … but I came back to it because I really liked the sound of it and because I wanted to perform it,” he said.

Band director Chris Nalls says that Saito’s approach to learning music has really influenced him as a teacher.

“Getting to know him over the past two years and understanding his approach to music just blows your mind to realize that he could learn something incredibly intricate by hearing it,” Nalls said. “That method of learning music has influenced my teaching in that I’ve integrated listening more and seen how it really helps students that learn that way.”

Among the winners, senior Ethan Kim won “Best Instrumental Solo’ for his marimba solo “A Song from Yesterday,” and senior Micheal Dehart won “Best Original Composition” for his self-made contemporary piece “Seymour’s Dream.” A “Star Wars” rendition by freshman Sydney Elliot, junior Nila Mettler, freshman Jonas Mettler and Hannah Soetart also received accolades for their reenactment of a lightsaber battle.

Saito, pleased with both his performance and the strong performances from his peers, said he is grateful for the opportunity for musicians and performers to showcase their passions for what they do.

“Performing is just so relieving and so satisfying,” he said, “and all those hours of just repetition and trial and error just make it so much more worth it.”

The Branham bands will travel to Disneyland for Festival Disney, their next music competition, on Mar. 3-6.