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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Rising Star

Editorís note: This is the first in a new series highlighting the accomplishments of a D 49 student.At the beginning of the school year, Austin Nordhaus, a seventh-grade student at Horizon Middle School in Falcon School District 49 became the first student in the district to be formally identified as gifted in instrumental music. D 49, with the approval of the Colorado Department of Education, developed a process to recognize gifted students through a portfolio presentation, performance evaluation and interview.Thirteen-year-old Austin plays the piano, all percussion instruments, the ukulele; and is learning the guitar. He has played the piano for four years and the drums for one year.For his performance evaluation, Austin said he played a mallet instrument, the piano and the drums. ìI was pretty nervous,î he said. ìBut it is what I love to do, and it is my passion. I love audiences and sharing my passion.îHis mom, Shannon Nordhaus, said, ìMy husband plays piano and guitar, my oldest son plays guitar, and my older daughter plays the piano ó but that is all for fun. Austin is the only one who is serious about it. He just loves it, and you do not have to tell him to practice.îìAustin came to me as a fifth-grader at our open house,î said Melanie Hawthorne, HMS band director. ìHe walked up to me and said, ëExcuse me, can I play the piano?í I thought he was going to play ìMary Had a Little Lambî or something, and he sat down and busted out this incredible concerto.îHawthorne said she immediately recognized his talent, and talked to Austinís family about allowing Austin to attend HMS. Hawthorne worked on different ways to challenge Austin; and, with her help, he began playing with the Sand Creek High School marching band. She also provided an opportunity for Austin to teach music. ìI let him run the percussion class with my supervision,î she said. ìHis peers respect him.îAustin is also a member of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, where he plays percussion. Getting a taste for that type of performing has helped him realize his drive to be in an ensemble or some kind of band. ìI would love to be in a band; or, if I go to college, I would probably end up trying to make it to Juilliard (school of dance, drama and music in New York City),î Austin said. ìI think that would be amazing.îIn addition to playing various instruments and arranging his own song medleys, Austin said he enjoys ìStar Warsî and skateboarding. ìI broke my arm skateboarding but I still played the piano,î he said. ìThere was no way I was going to wait six-and-a-half weeks to play.îAustin said he hopes to be a positive influence on others. ìI want people to know that whatever happens in their lives, they can absolutely get through it,î he said. ìYou need to find a passion to help you get through it.ìAll I really want to do is share my gift that God gave me. With that, I can motivate and inspire others to get through something.îCaption: Thirteen-year-old Austin Nordhaus plays the piano, all percussion instruments, the ukulele; and is learning the guitar. Falcon School District 49 has developed a new process to recognize gifted students.

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