There is something about listening to music that carries Tiffany Leard away.
"It just does something to me," Tiffany said. "I can't explain it. I just heard music and needed to play it."
That drive to play helped Tiffany, 11, become a first-place divisional winner at the Music Teacher National Association competition in November and will help her on her journey for the Southwest Divisionals competition Saturday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas .
Tiffany, a Henderson resident, was 4 years old when she started piano lessons.
"It was hard to catch on," Tiffany said. "But my mom helped me out a lot."
Her parents, Kelley and Eva, said they "lucked out" in finding a distinguished instructor, Ekaterina Melomini, who attended the Russian Conservatory.
Tiffany's first song, "Happy Birthday," is a distant memory as she takes on new challenges of playing pieces from composers such as German composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
Tiffany started competing when she was 6.
Her first competition proved to be fruitful as she won two first-place awards, one for a solo and one for a duet, at the Nevada Music Teachers Association Silver State C ompetition.
"It was right before my mom's birthday," Tiffany said. "I told her it was her present."
Her parents are extremely proud of her accomplishments.
"When they announced she won, we started to cry," Kelley said. "Then we started to laugh. We were just proud as heck."
Tiffany always gets a little nervous before a performance . But once she sits down and presses her fingers to the keys, her nerves begin to ease.
"It is like the world goes away," Tiffany said. "It's like I'm playing at home."
When Tiffany first started performing, if she was on stage and forgot what she was playing, she would make something up rather than stop.
"Her instructor called her a little composer," Eva said.
Tiffany said the audience never really caught on that she would go off script.
"Except for her teacher," Eva added. "She always knew."
But now, Tiffany sticks strictly to the composition.
Tiffany didn't think she would do as well as she did at the latest competition.
"I just wanted to try it out," Tiffany said.
She had been thinking about the competition for a couple of years but had to wait until she was 11 to enter. The junior category is for people 11 to 14 years old.
Eva said she was impressed because most of the other competitors Tiffany played against were 14 years old.
Going into the divisional competition, Tiffany is slated to go against other winners from the southwestern United States .
Even though she says she doesn't expect much, if she does well, she could go on to compete at nationals in New York.
Tiffany says she always wants to play piano, but she doesn't want to do it professionally.
"I want to be a lawyer," Tiffany said, "a prosecutor. But I will always play piano."
Her parents think her talents will take her far.
"Maybe she can win a scholarship playing piano to help pay for school," Kelley said.
Tiffany also is in the orchestra at Del Webb Middle School and plays the cello.
"We are just a musical family," Tiffany said.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-5201.