Michigan native Derek Herzer began playing piano when he was 17 years old. Thirteen years later, he has a master’s degree in piano performance from the University of Southern Maine. On Nov. 15, he is scheduled to perform a concert at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston. The Sun Journal wanted to learn more about the up-and-coming concert pianist, who now lives in Portland.

Name: Derek Herzer

Age: 30

Hometown: Gaylord, Michigan

Single, Relationship or Married? Married to Rachel

Children? No

You started playing the piano at 17, after most pianists have been playing for a decade or more. What suddenly captured your interest about the piano? Like most kids, I have always had an interest in music. There were a few rock bands and such in my hometown during middle and high school that I admired. I didn’t play an instrument and knew that I didn’t have a chance to join any of the bands. I heard a girl play piano and sing at a high school talent show, and I thought it was amazing how much sound the instrument could make. I must have been in the 10th or 11th grade when I heard this. In 11th, when I was 16, I got a little plastic keyboard and started making cool sounds on it. Then at 17, I got a new keyboard and started learning a few little classical tunes. I didn’t know much classical music at all and didn’t actually care for it too much. After I learned a piece, played it in a class, and then got out played by another pianist, I decided that I wanted to work at the piano really hard so that didn’t happen again. But of course, it always will happen.

What was the first piece you played? Fur Elise

How quickly did the piano become more than just a hobby? After my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to do something with it.

Was it tough to get people to take you seriously because you started so late? No. I was usually encouraged, especially from my parents and grandparents. They were all very encouraging.

What drew you to come to Maine and study at the University of Southern Maine? Laura Kargul. I read about her and wanted to audition for her and meet her. After I met her, I knew she was the perfect teacher for me. (Kargul is an internationally renown pianist and the director of Keyboard Studies at USM.)

Since you graduated, you have been doing some performing and teaching. What’s your next step? I am happy where I am. I love teaching and accompanying, but eventually I would like to pursue a doctorate.

You’ll be playing a concert at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston on Nov. 15. You were introduced to the venue and its Steinway grand piano. What were your impressions? The hall is gorgeous and I think it is amazing how the church was transformed into the concert hall it is today. I feel honored to be performing there and playing the music I love.


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