Leo Pucilowski was one of several young students showcased last month at a special donor night at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. Dressed in a smart looking suit, he calmly took his seat at the theater’s grand piano and played the Bruno Mars hit, “When I Was Your Man,” with panache.
The audience loved it and in a question and answer session afterwards, one donor asked him how much he practiced. Without skipping a beat, this fifth grader answered “an hour a day.”
“It’s true,” his mother, Joanna Pucilowski confirmed. “It’s the first thing he does in the morning, we don’t have to ask him.”
Leo is a fifth grader at Patton Elementary School and when he’s not practicing the piano, he’s practicing in the pool with the Arlington Muskies swim team. Leo began taking piano lessons five years ago. He and his older brother, Max, take private lessons from Janna Gainulin, who also performed during the donor event.
“She’s just cheerful,” Leo says of his teacher. “She has a computer on the piano and sometimes brings up about the artist of a song we’re learning so we get to know more about him.”
Leo and Max are among the 17,000 students who have taken lessons at the Metropolis since the theater opened its School of the Performing Arts in 2007. As described during the donor event, its students range in age from 3 to 83, and are of all levels of abilities.
“Students were nominated by their instructors to perform at this event,” says Education Director Lauren Boult. “We have students of all ages and skill levels, and we wanted our instructors to think of students who could best showcase both of those aspects of our school.”
Leo was one of three pianists in the group. He says he wasn’t nervous when he took the stage, pointing to his hours of practice and memorization of the piece.
“I like to pick songs that I can sing the lyrics to while I’m learning it,” he says. “And I like songs that have difficult things. like chords and stretching to reach an octave.”
Currently, Leo is working on holiday music and a sonatina, and like his favorite performer, Bruno Mars, he looks forward to playing in another concert.
“We like to provide our students with performance opportunities to help motivate them to practice and want to progress on their instruments,” Boult adds. “We always like to remind students that whenever they are performing with Metropolis that everyone in the audience is their biggest fan and there to support them.”