KP 10-Year-old Wins Gig Harbor Music Olympics Event

The young pianist looks forward to writing her own music.


Longbranch resident Ava Tisino, 10, won a first place trophy for mastery of the piano in her category at the annual Gig Harbor Music Teachers Association Music Olympics Nov. 20 at Harbor Covenant Church.

Ava also received a medal commemorating her induction into the association’s 2021 Hall of Fame for going “above and beyond in knowing all the Music Olympics requirements,” the association said, though she competed in only a few.

The annual competition draws approximately 150 piano students each year, testing their knowledge of and ability in rhythm, scales, chords, arpeggios, performance and theory. Each category of the competition is determined by the student’s age and years studying.

“I started playing when I was 8 years old,” Ava told the KP News after winning her event. “The reason I wanted to play is whenever I sat down at my gramma’s grand piano at her house, I always had a touch with the piano.”

In just two years, Ava has mastered a number of pieces and learned to sight-read music, something Mozart accomplished after four years of study, when he was 7.

“My favorite piece is ‘Firefly,’ ” she said. “When you play it, you fly through the keys and you play legato, and that’s my favorite way to play.”

Legato refers to playing the piano in a smooth, flowing manner, without breaks between notes.

Ava’s winning performance was “The Three-Legged Witch,” which she chose in honor of Halloween.

Unlike legato, the Dennis Alexander piece features mostly staccato work, performed with each note sharply separated from the others while shifting from 2/4 to 3/4 time to evoke the witch dancing on three legs, including her broom.

“I don’t write my own songs just yet, but I’m really good at just listening to a song and figuring out the notes,” Ava said.<

She also offered advice for anyone thinking about picking up an instrument.

“If you want to learn to play, you should definitely follow what you want to do. The piano to me is a way to express my feelings because I’m just flying through the keys playing what I want.

“I have a keyboard for now, but I will get a real piano soon,” she said.

“Ava is a wonderful student to teach,” said her instructor, Tien-Li Holdych. “She is hard-working and truly enjoys playing the piano. I love that when I assign her several pieces to practice, Ava will come back the following week with twice as many pieces that she practiced on her own for fun.”

Holdych has been a member of the Gig Harbor Music Teachers Association since 2006 and has chaired several events over the years such as the Young Artists Competition, Master Classes and Music Olympics.