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      Amarillo piano student wins state competition

      The connection between J.T. Hassell and his piano began when he was nine years old. Just seven short years later, it's become his passion.

      "J.T. is the most focused teenager I've ever known and I'm not saying that just because I'm his mother, but he really lives and breathes piano," said Cindy Hassell J.T.'s Mother.

      His parents say they knew he had a special gift when he was a sixth grader.

      J.T.'s says it hit him while watching the cartoon, Tom and Jerry when a Hungarian Rhapsody piece by Liszt started to play.

      "It's a ridiculously difficult piece that no 11 year old has any business playing," said J.T. Hassell Piano Student. "But I didn't know that so I got the music to it and said, "I'm going to learn it!"

      That determination has led his to success at an early age.

      Recently, he won a statewide competition, the Juanita Miller Concerto Competition and second place in the Texas State Young Pianist Competition.

      Even with a long list of accomplishments, J.T. says humility is important.

      "My teacher says if any musician gets a big head it's an easy way to just completely lose track and get complacent," said Hassell. "And so you stop developing because you think you're already finished, and with music you're never really finished developing."

      Over the years he developed quickly, mastering the arts of Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Gershwin and many more.

      "There's a point during a performance, he's aware of the audience out there, he'll start playing and there's a point when you can almost see it, when he just disappears into the music," said Cindy Hassell.

      It's then that his love for music and the piano is clear. Even though being in a big city, as a travel performer is J.T.'s dream, sharing his passion is his ultimate goal.

      "I want to be a teacher because I feel like I love music so much and everything about it, I want to share that understanding and love to the next generation and to keep going."