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Connellsville pianist to perform with Pittsburgh orchestra

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007

Levi Graft of Connellsville has learned he never plays a song the same way twice.

"You learn it, then you relearn it. And each time that you learn it, it's something new," Graft said. "It's constantly morphing and constantly changing. It's always a little different when you perform it."

A recent graduate of Connellsville Area High School, Graft won the 2006-2007 Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra solo competition.

He will appear as the featured soloist with the 60-piece Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the theater of Upper St. Clair High School.

Graft, a freshman music major at Indiana University, Bloomington, will perform his winning piano piece, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

The All-American Concert presented by the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra will feature musical selections from Leonard Bernstein's classic "West Side Story" and Aaron Copland's four-dance episodes from "Rodeo." Graft will be the final soloist.

He won the competition out of a field of 22 talented hopefuls.

"I had performed it in high school and I felt that it would be a good piece for me to do," Graft said. "So I took it out and relearned it."

He discovered his love for music and the piano at an early age.

His mother, Barcine Graft, had learned to play the organ years before. She said an inquisitive Levi asked her to teach him, and she showed him the notes and the keys.

"Within one hour he knew all the notes of the scale and all the keys. He didn't even have a guide, he just seemed to know them," she said. He was 7.

She said Levi became a frequent visitor of neighbor Mary Ellen Burhans, who had a piano.

"Levi saw them moving in a piano and an organ to her house and he went right down to her and asked her if she would teach him to play. He was that bold to walk right up to her and just ask," his mother recalled.

Barcine said Burhans told her Levi had a gift. Burhans taught Graft piano for one year before she became ill.

He now studies with Harry Coleman of Pittsburgh.

"I'm extremely excited about what Levi has accomplished," Barcine Graft said. "He's done wonderfully and he amazes me every day."

Tickets for the concert are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free with an adult.

The Upper St. Clair Theater is in Upper St. Clair High School, 1820 McLaughlin Road, Upper St. Clair. For information, call 412-279-4030.

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