Confessions of a Teenage Pianist
Julia in Defy the Stars is a fairly serous classical pianist, and I’ve had a few people ask me if I play the
piano as well. The answer is…why, yes—or at least I used to, when I was Julia’s age! However, I was
never nearly as serious as Julia is about piano, and I never really considered pursuing it as a career.
Despite this, through a unique and very lucky set of circumstances, I ended up attending the Baltimore
School for the Arts, a performing arts high school, as a piano major—yup, it was kind of like the school
in the movie Fame! So I’m just going to tell you a bit about what my experience as a high-school pianist
was like, and how it inspired Defy the Stars…
I actually began taking piano lessons in middle school, and I studied at the Peabody Preparatory in
downtown Baltimore, the pre-college branch of the Peabody Conservatory where Julia hopes to attend
college. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring place:
…and I had a wonderful teacher named Ms. Hartmark who definitely inspired Ms. Hart in my book.
The Peabody is actually right across the street from the Baltimore School for the Arts, an amazing public
high school located in a former hotel:
I wasn’t too happy with my private middle school, so I decided to audition for School for the Arts in
piano, and I got in! So from ninth to twelfth grade, I spent half my day learning music theory, music
literature, playing piano, and more. Yes, I still had to take math and science…but I was able to share
my academic classes with a community of musicians, actors, dancers, and visual artists. I had some
wonderful opportunities to play piano along with orchestras and choruses, at art museums and more.
I was never too interested in the technical aspect of playing, and I could never have played pieces as
difficult as Julia does in the book—but thanks to all those years of study, I was able to at least DESCRIBE
the pieces accurately, and imagine how it might feel to play them, in order to write Defy the Stars!
If you’ve seen Fame, you’re probably wondering if attending a performing arts high school was in any
way like the movie…and while it wasn’t nearly as extreme, it actually was a bit similar! We really did
have students dancing in the halls and singing in the cafeteria. And because our school was in a former
hotel, we had upper-floor practice rooms with stunning views of downtown Baltimore…a class in the
former hotel bar…and our auditorium was once the ballroom, and still had the beautifully painted
ceiling! In addition, we’ve had some famous graduates, though none while I was at the school, including
Jada Pinkett, Tupac Shakur, and Christian Siriano (Project Runway). I can truly say that attending both
the Peabody and the Baltimore School for the Arts was a magical experience!
On the other hand, I do remember the incredible stress that affected me and, more than me, other
musicians who hoped to attend prestigious conservatories. There was so much competition and
pressure to be perfect, and some students practiced as much as ten hours a day, sacrificing sleep,
friendships, relationships, and more. Knowing the level of anxiety involved in applying to, and then
waiting to hear from, music conservatories definitely inspired some of the darker aspects of my story.
While I may never have become a classical pianist, I couldn’t have written Defy the Stars if I hadn’t
attended the Baltimore School for the Arts. In fact, I think attending such a diverse and open-minded
school, full of students and teachers who truly loved art in all its forms, played a large part in my
becoming a writer. And for that I’ll always be grateful!
Defy the Stars
Release Date: 07/30/12
Summary from Goodreads:Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.
Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.
Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.
Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.
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About the AuthorStephanie Parent is a YA author repped by Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major.http://www.stephanieparent.
Giveaway Info:1st prize: $30 gift card from Amazon and a e-book copy of Defy the Stars.2nd place: 4 e-book copies of Defy the Stars.Additional Prize: A query letter critique by Stephanie Parent.All giveaways are open internationally!
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