8-year-old Ethan Farnam The Piano Man (to be)

8-year-old Ethan Farnam The Piano Man (to be)

October 19th, 2010 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Oct 13, 2010 - Piano teacher Andrea Exum, left, works with Ethan Farnum, 8, during one of his piano lessons on Wednesday at Cadek Hall.

Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

Spend much time with Ethan Farnam, 8, and you'll soon realize that with his precocious sense of humor and abundance of energy, he's tough to keep in one place for long.

At the piano, his legs dangle far above the pedals and his hands can't stretch to reach a full octave yet, but his fingers move with a seriousness and dexterity that belies his age and normal rambunctiousness, said Andrea Exum, Ethan's instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Cadek Music Conservatory.

"From the moment he plays, he's focused and serious, and then he stands up and he's totally wild and crazy again," she said. "He's totally different."

With about a dozen recitals under his belt, Ethan has had plenty of experience playing in front of groups. He has polished intermediate-level material for these performances, but he said he still gets nervous onstage.

"I always get the snakes," he said (his substitute for nervous butterflies). "They're ... the same thing, pretty much, but more deadly. (Then) I just start playing, and it goes away."

Music has been part of Ethan's life since he was 9 months old and entered Cadek's Kindermusik program. Since then, Ethan's parents, visual artists Judith Mogul and Tom Farnam, have made music, both listening and performing, an everyday activity.

"It's not an extra thing to hear music going in the house or in our painting studio," said Mogul, whose father was a Juilliard-trained violinist, clarinetist and saxophonist. "He's really aware of music in all aspects of his life, which to me, is more important than just playing piano. He sees music as part of a larger picture."

Since Exum began teaching Ethan three years ago, he has moved through four levels of the Suzuki music instruction method. His current workload includes a minuet by Bach and one of Beethoven's entry-level sonatas.

In addition to his exploration of classical music, Ethan also has expressed interest in experimenting with different styles of music. He said his piano hero is "Rhapsody in Blue" composer George Gershwin, and he spent several months studying jazz with UTC piano professor David Walters.

As a style heavily dependent on artists' ability to improvise, jazz is not normally taught to younger students, but Walters said Ethan was doing well before his activities schedule became too much to handle the extra practice time.

"Improvisation is difficult for adults to take on, too," Walters said. "You're having to create it out of thin air. It's a tough skill to crack."

ABOUT HIM

Age: 8.

School: Third-grader at Normal Park Museum Magnet.

Favorite subject: Writing.

Favorite piece: "L'Arabesque" by Johann Burgmüller.


CLAIM TO FAME

Pianist Ethan Farnam, 8, achieved all "superior" ratings in the Tennessee Music Teachers Association state competition in May. On Oct. 13, he made his television debut playing a duet with his instructor, Andrea Exum, on WRCB's "3 Plus You" program.

Both of Ethan's instructors said that in addition to his attention to detail and his diligence in practicing, his greatest asset is the encouraging atmosphere in which he is being raised.

If other parents found ways to nurture their children's artistic growth as Ethan's have, his achievements wouldn't stand out so starkly, Exum said.

"The biggest difference for Ethan is that his parents set up the right environment for him to learn music," she said. "They always encourage it and are very positive. It's never negative or a punishment. It's always rewarded."

"I always get the snakes," he said (his substitute for nervous butterflies). "They're ... the same thing, pretty much, but more deadly. (Then) I just start playing, and it goes away."

Music has been part of Ethan's life since he was 9 months old and entered Cadek's Kindermusik program. Since then, Ethan's parents, visual artists Judith Mogul and Tom Farnam, have made music, both listening and performing, an everyday activity.

"It's not an extra thing to hear music going in the house or in our painting studio," said Mogul, whose father was a Juilliard-trained violinist, clarinetist and saxophonist. "He's really aware of music in all aspects of his life, which to me, is more important than just playing piano. He sees music as part of a larger picture."

Since Exum began teaching Ethan three years ago, he has moved through four levels of the Suzuki music instruction method. His current workload includes a minuet by Bach and one of Beethoven's entry-level sonatas.

In addition to his exploration of classical music, Ethan also has expressed interest in experimenting with different styles of music. He said his piano hero is "Rhapsody in Blue" composer George Gershwin, and he spent several months studying jazz with UTC piano professor David Walters.

As a style heavily dependent on artists' ability to improvise, jazz is not normally taught to younger students, but Walters said Ethan was doing well before his activities schedule became too much to handle the extra practice time.

"Improvisation is difficult for adults to take on, too," Walters said. "You're having to create it out of thin air. It's a tough skill to crack."

Both Ethan's instructors said that in addition to his attention to detail and his diligence in practicing, his greatest asset is the encouraging atmosphere in which he is being raised.

If other parents found ways to nurture their children's artistic growth as Ethan's have, his achievements wouldn't stand out so starkly, Exum said.

"The biggest difference for Ethan is that his parents set up the right environment for him to learn music," she said. "They always encourage it and are very positive. It's never negative or a punishment. It's always rewarded."


TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child 12 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which will appear in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.


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