By Lois Malachowsky (page 23 July 2004 issue of The Parklander magazine, which is now called the Parkland / Coral Springs Life magazine) - music instructor in Coral Springs Sara Rosenthal, 12, daughter of Thelma and Don Rosenthal of Parkland, recently won first place in Piano Solo Primary III - Division 3 at the prestigious Florida Federation of Music Clubs 2004 State Junior Convention at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Sara played Farewell Blues by Martha Mier.

A 6th-grade “A” student at West Cedar Middle School, Sara has been taking private piano lessons for a year and a half under Dr. Leana Strouse. Although Sara qualified last year with only six months of lessons, she waited another year to polish her skills for the competition. Sara said it was “cool” to go to Jacksonville and it was “really exciting and (I was) very surprised” at winning. Not that she didn’t expect to, of course, but “there were a lot of talented kids there.”

Students are invited to the state competition after performing before three judges at a local competition (Sara competed at Broward Community College.) Divisions are based on level of play, not age, so Sara as in the Primary III group.

The Jacksonville competition is formidable and a 12-year- old needs to summon up a lot of courage to perform on a major stage in front of family, friends, teachers and judges.

“I’m not a shy person,” said Sara, who has participated in theater and singing groups. “I met a lot of kids,” she added, explaining that the competition was “fun” and she knew her level attitude of “practice and prepare to win” would keep her buoyed up throughout the rigorous contest. Don Rosenthal added: lilt was five children at a time, When she played it was perfect. All the parents said, ‘She’s the one to beat.’”

“It’s a lot for a kid,” Don said, citing school and home- work obligations in addition to at least an hour of daily practice (1-1/2 hours a day two weeks before competing), “and you want them to have a little fun, too.” Shana Rosenthal, Sara’s younger sister and a student at Riverglades, noted “It was cool” to see her sister play so well. “The competition was really hard and I’m glad my sister made it to first place.”

The Florida Federation of Music Clubs (FFMC) was organized in 1913. Affiliated with the National Federation of Music Clubs, its purpose is furthering musical education and fostering a musical environment in communities. There are seven districts of the FFMC in Florida. Sara competed in the Royal Poinciana district which encompasses Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. “I didn’t go up saying I had to win,” Sara said, “I went up wanting to win.”