Lamb Triplets Earn Prestigious Piano Honor

(From Central Kentucky News Journal)

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Blair, Laura, and Murphy Lamb are three of just 10 students selected to statewide program this summer (photo John Overby)

By John Overby
Monday, May 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

Blair Lamb was at the Lucky Vista Motel, helping her group shoot a video for a project in one of her classes. Only her mind wasn’t on the project.

She was waiting — waiting to hear if she had been accepted for the Governor’s School for the Arts program.  So, with lighting and sound equipment all around her, she couldn’t help but sit there, staring at her phone as everyone else focused on getting their movie done.

But she wasn’t alone in her misery.

Murphy Lamb had just finished up baseball practice and was watching a friend play tennis on the night of the big reveal.  Even after his mother had found out, though, he needed to see the good or bad news for himself.  “I was like, ‘Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me!” Murphy said. “I wanted to find out on my own.”

And Laura Lamb was sitting at home, but that didn’t make her wait any more bearable, especially after the unexpected happened.

“The website crashed…” Laura began.

But she wasn’t able to complete her thought before Blair, reliving the painful memory in her mind, frantically added, “The website crashed! They were half an hour late! Oh my gosh, it was awful.”

•••

The Lamb triplets began playing piano when they were in first grade, a little over 9 years ago. Their mother, Tammy, had taken piano with a local instructor, Suellen Shaw, and her children were now following suit.

“All three of us happened to like piano, so we just stuck with it,” Laura said.

With three siblings starting a new craft at the same time and only one instrument to practice on, there were some time-management challenges at the beginning. At first, they would have designated orders in which to practice, but finding enough time to rehearse soon became second nature.

Even once that problem was solved, though, each one acknowledged they still had something they needed to adjust to in the beginning.
For Laura and Murphy, it was getting into the habit of practicing on a daily basis.

“It wasn’t just practicing,” Laura said, “but learning to start practicing well.”

“And it’s not just running through all your stuff,” Murphy added. “It’s working on everything and realizing what’s bad and knowing what you need to work on.”

Blair’s biggest challenge was discovering that not everything would come easily and becoming disciplined enough to practice when those difficulties arose.

“I remember one time in particular,” she said, “it was hard for me to get something I wasn’t good at to start with and work on it. A lot of things had come easy, but I would get frustrated when I would see a piece of music and couldn’t play it right off the bat.”

However, having three siblings starting the same instrument simultaneously accelerated the learning process, they said, because they started becoming competitive with one other.

“It probably pushed us all to be better,” Laura said.

When the trio began attending various piano festivals, though, it was often difficult for them to figure out which one had the advantage, as they would often end up receiving the same scores.

“There’s only a certain amount of spots in piano festivals for people to make it to state,” Blair said, “but there’s always more than three, so we’d all get a spot.”

According to Murphy, Shaw was the first one to realize that the three Lambs had a natural affinity for the piano.  Even though they didn’t have anyone to compare themselves to, Shaw was able to tell they were quickly progressing in their lessons.

“Pretty much from the beginning, she noticed that we were advancing quicker than most people, I think,” he said.

Blair realized she had the ability to excel at piano when she was around 11 or 12 years old. It was at this point that she and her siblings had graduated from the training books and began playing classical music and music from the romantic period.

“When we started playing the greats and we found out that we could do that, I think that’s when I knew and I think we all knew,” Blair said.
Their progress soon led them to other opportunities.

•••

As soon as the Lambs heard about the Governor’s School for the Arts program — around the time they were in eighth grade — they were intrigued.  They liked that it wasn’t biased, as a lot of programs tend to take a certain amount of students from each district or from each school and some even favor certain schools more.  Not GSA, as they called it.

“It’s not like that at all,” Blair said. “Everybody has an equal chance, and it’s free, too, which is another thing I like about it.”

The process of being accepted into the GSA program — which runs from June 21 to July 11 this summer — is a “tedious” one, and Murphy even noted that he began training for the audition process a year in advance.

“That’s when I picked out the piece I was going to play — (George) Gershwin’s First Prelude,” he said. “I worked on it forever.”

In addition to a pre-selected piece, each GSA hopeful is also tasked with learning one in a short amount of time.

“Three weeks before the audition,” Laura said, “they send you a piece — and it’s not an easy piece — and you have to learn it so they can see how fast you learn things.”

Plus, once a candidate is at the audition, they are also required to play scales and a sight-reading they are given when they get there and take part in an interview.  However, unlike many auditions, all three Lambs said that this experience was far from a stressful one, something they expressed in unison but all in different ways.

“It was actually not very stressful at all.”

“They were so relaxing.”

“They were just really nice.”

“They were just really chill,” Murphy added, once they had all chimed in initially. “They were easy to talk to. They were just sitting at a table, and it wasn’t a big deal once I got in there.”

The real stress came after the audition, even before they knew there would be technical difficulties.

“The most nerve-wracking part for me wasn’t even the audition itself,” Blair said. “It was the period after the audition when they were deciding who got in and the night they posted it on the Internet.”

Prior to the audition, each one had prepared themselves for the possibility that they might not all make it, with only 10 spots available for this year’s program.  In fact, none of them expected that they would all three make it.

“I didn’t figure all three of us would get in,” Laura said. “We didn’t get to hear each other’s audition, so I didn’t know which one of us did the worst. I didn’t know what to expect.”

“Not that any of us is worse than the other,” Blair added, “because we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but it was really competitive. I really didn’t think they would pick three people from the same family.”

Murphy thought it was a foregone conclusion that at least one of them wouldn’t make it, although he believed that it wouldn’t even be a matter of which of the triplets was better when leaving one out.

“I thought it would come down to, ‘Why would we pick three from the same family? You know one’s worse than the other ones,’” he said, half-jokingly.

But after waiting all night — and 30 minutes extra — they soon found out the good news.

All three of them had been selected.

“I was really surprised,” Blair said, “but I was so excited when I found out.

“We all made it.”