Blake Brandenburg began playing the piano when he was just 8 years old. Fast-forward 11 years, and the 19-year-old is using his musical talents in college as he pursues a major in commercial music.
"I've played the piano all my life," said the son of Don and Leigh Brandenburg, of Evans. "I never thought I'd do anything like this."
It was following his heart that led him to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., which he fell in love with after visiting. He said its commercial music program seemed to be the right thing for him.
As part of the Belmont University piano ensemble, Blake participated in a recently filmed Christmas at Belmont special that will air nationally Christmas Eve.
"That was just great," said Blake, a 2007 graduate of Lakeside High School. "It was the first time that I felt like I was surrounded by so much talent."
Former American Idol finalist and Belmont University alumna Melinda Doolittle was the host of the event, and more than 400 Belmont students and staff took part in the program. An estimated 200 performers provided the musical talent for the event.
"I really felt like it was a good celebration of the true meaning of Christmas," said Blake of the event that was taped Nov. 19.
Blake's former piano teacher Cindy Wilkinson, of Martinez, doubts that this will be the last time her student performs for a national audience.
"He's phenomenal," said Wilkinson, who taught Blake during his junior and senior years of high school. "I haven't found the limit of his abilities. I think he will succeed at anything he sets his sights on.
"One of the things that is so rare and valuable in Blake is his ability to accept instruction and the capacity to apply it. He's a sponge. He's definitely very, very focused. As his instructor, I tried to keep a balance between what I knew he needed to accomplish -- technique, chord structure, the basics of classical music -- and what he was most passionate about, which is praise and worship music."
The Christmas at Belmont special will air on PBS at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
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