Staying in tune: Keizer dazzles at statewide piano competition, concert

Paula Flynn and Gracie Keizer

Gracie Keizer (right) smiles as Paula Flynn trains her on a music piece. “When I met Mrs. Paula, I remember how energetic she was all around,” Keizer said. (Paula Flynn courtesy photo)

Trey Stewart,

By Trey Stewart


Since she was just five years old, Gracie Keizer’s love for piano has been clear to those around her.


Her knack for it – a level of talent not seen by many her age – has become even clearer – to everyone but her, that is.


“I’ve just been doing it for so long I didn’t even think I was that good at it,” Keizer says, laughing. “Piano has just always been part of me.”


So when Keizer met Paula Flynn – Casper College pianist and founder of Way Out West Music Academy – seven years ago, the pair were a match made in musical heaven.


“Gracie came to me back seven years ago,” Flynn says. “From the moment I met her, I could tell she was going to be a hard worker. And I was right. She takes everything I say to the highest degree.”


“When I met Mrs. Paula, I remember how energetic she was all around,” the now 17-year-old Keizer remarks. “She just had this personality that was so full of vibrant life. I’d see her get so excited over teaching, and honestly, excited over just about anything. She loves what she does. I immediately felt that passion pouring through.”


The pair began working together in 2014. The piano had always been a passion of Keizer’s, but there were areas Flynn said the then 10-year old needed work. 


Reflecting on her progress after seven years of teaching, Flynn says it’s clear just how grand the strides are that Keizer has made.


“She’s become a brilliant little pianist. Her reading has just gone off the charts during the last couple of years. Her rhythm, knowledge and understanding were lacking seven years ago, but now, I would happily turn some of my little students over to her and say ‘Gracie, teach them this.’ She’s tenacious in her knowledge, and she doesn’t stop improving.”


Gracie’s young musical career reached new heights in June, as she was invited to perform at the Wyoming State Achievement Day in Casper.


Twenty students were selected for the competition. Keizer, who’s based in Rolling Hills, was just one of three students chosen from the Glenrock area. Twins James and John Halvorsen were the other two students chosen, but could not be reached for an interview prior to press time.


Keizer cracks a joke about her reaction to being selected.


“When she told me, I was just like ‘Oh man, another piano concert?’”


She laughs, but this concert was far from just another show. Her selection spoke volumes about her progression over the years.


“That was probably the first major competition I’ve ever done for piano. I do lots of performances because I play for our church and jazz band, and choir, and of course, Mrs. Paula has her own performances that she wants her students to do.”


The most rewarding part of the ordeal, Keizer says, was getting the chance to learn with Marvin Blickenstaff, a nationally renowned piano professor at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.


“Having him teach me was a whole lot of fun,” Keizer says. “I got to really get to know him and get a feel for his style while I was there. I wasn’t even that nervous, just because I could tell he was a really great guy.”


And while Keizer may graduate from Flynn’s program after this year, that doesn’t mean she wants to stop playing piano altogether.


“I want to keep playing as I get older. I’m hoping to at least be able to play accompaniments for churches and choirs and things like that, even if I don’t go professional.


“My ultimate goal is to just be able to look at any piece and play it to some degree. I want to have that kind of skill. But even more than that, I want to be able to continue enjoying playing the piano and never see it as work. Because right now, I have that enjoyment.”


It’s an enjoyment she’s had since she was just five years old, but without Flynn, she says, it may never have been amplified.


“I’ve always had a love for music, but Mrs. Paula brought it out for me in different styles, so it’s not just narrow-minded.


“She’s really given me this huge overall love of music.”


Glenrock Independent

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