Tess Michel from East Helena is off to California this week to compete for the top spot amongst the country's best young pianists.

Tess Michel, pianist and harpist. Photo credit Janice Bogy

Tess Michel, 18, will compete in the national Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Senior Performance Competition in Anaheim, Calif. on March 10. Michel earned her berth at the prestigious national finals after coming out on top in the Northwest Regional MTNA in January, which included hundreds of high school students from six states.

Michel is the first MTNA Senior Performance Division regional winner in piano from Montana since 2006, but has competed in statewide contests since 2005, winning state in 2010 and 2012. She has also been the principal harpist for the Helena Symphony since 2011 (following her older sister Lydia) and qualified as one of eight finalists in the biannual American Harp Society National Competitions of 2009 and 2011, finishing in the top five.  Michel and her 11 siblings are home schooled.

Michel joins her siblings in musical excellence. Lydia Michel is a piano performance major at Texas Christian University. Lydia and brother Carlton also studied piano and both competed for many years in MTNA and Montana State Music Teachers Association competitions, winning state titles as soloists as well as piano duets. Carlton is an accomplished classical guitarist, having performed with the Helena Symphony and studied under great teachers including world renowned Christopher Parkening.  Other younger Michel children study in the studios of Kenneth Christensen and Janice Bogy on piano and harp.

“As a student, Tess is every teacher’s dream.  She is always prepared and lessons are about fine-tuning musical expression and balance instead of notes,” said harp teacher Janice Bogy. “Younger and older sisters prove this is normal for this unusual family.”