Classically Trained: Youth symphony pianist started early

November 09, 2010|By Bradley Zint
  • Natalie Cernius, 14, plays on the family piano below pictures of her siblings. Cernius is the pianist for the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Natalie Cernius, 14, plays on the family piano below pictures… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — Natalie Cernius took a liking to the piano even before she was big enough to reach the keys.

As a toddler, she enjoyed crawling under the instrument during her older siblings' lessons. The notes from those sessions resonated in the toddler's ears and throughout their Dover Shores home.

It was Natalie's early beginnings playfully scrambling between the piano legs and hearing those notes that likely helped give the 14-year-old the perfect pitch she has today. That's the rare ability to sing, identify or re-create any note without a reference beforehand.

And after years of lessons since about age 4, Natalie is now the pianist for the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, an educational ensemble under the auspices of the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Symphony.

Though not a musician herself, mother Poita Cernius wanted to expose all of her four children — Natalie, Andrew, Jason and Ariana — to music at a young age. Such motherly wisdom paid off for all of them, and especially for Natalie, the Cernius family's youngest.


The Newport Harbor High school freshman loves playing with the orchestra and music in general, which is a cornerstone of her young life so far.

"It's such a huge thing and it teaches so much," Natalie said. "It teaches you discipline and that you have to put work in; you have to be a hard worker. It's a huge part of my life."

Jason, now a senior at Newport Harbor, recalled his little sister wanting to catch up to her older siblings when they were all younger.

"Natalie was always there," he said. "She would always try to do everything we do. I remember when we were learning to read, she would pick up a book. She wanted to read, too."

Those acts of Natalie's early sibling catch-ups have turned into what will surely be a lifelong skill.

"Now she's the best of all of us," Jason said.

Past teachers Laura Adams, Trudy Anshutz and current teacher Ana Marie Eckstein helped harness Natalie's skills, which have earned her awards at solo competitions.

But eventually Natalie knew she wanted to do more with the piano, both musically and socially.

"That's why I wanted to join the orchestra," she said. "I'm always, as a pianist, practicing and performing by myself. I thought it would be a good experience for me to play with other people."

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