MUKILTEO — Playing the piano came naturally to Adrienna Tran-Pearson.
She was drawn to the keys as a baby, and was in lessons by age 4. She played with a professional orchestra when she was just 8.
Tran-Pearson has grown up, and this year is graduating as valedictorian from Kamiak High School. She’s going to the University of Washington in Seattle, and has been accepted into the school’s neurobiology program.
More than 450 high school seniors applied. The major has room for 60 students each year. Tran-Pearson is one of seven high school seniors who so far have accepted admission to the program.
“I saw the email that said I got directly into neuro right before I got my Harvard rejection, so it made it feel way better,” Tran-Pearson said.
She hopes to study mental illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and obsessive compulsive disorder.
“I’ve always wanted to do research, since I was pretty young. I read a book on neuroscience, and I was like, ‘This is really interesting,’ ” she said. “I love the perception and that kind of stuff.”
Tran-Pearson went to a small private school before Kamiak. She wasn’t used to being around so many accomplished kids.
She wanted to keep up. She started pushing herself to win every piano competition she played.
“It put more stress on myself, and I was losing a lot of self-confidence,” she said. “I stopped really enjoying the one thing I really loved to do, which was playing music.”
Tran-Pearson stopped competing this year and has focused on composing. She wants to take some music classes in college, but not enough to make it a chore.
Tran-Pearson’s piano teacher, Gail Tremblay, has been there through every obstacle.
They’ve been working together once a week for the past decade. They stopped practicing together in April.
“We still wanted to see each other, even though we’re not doing lessons,” Tran-Pearson said. “She’s like my second mom.”
They still meet every week, but now Tran-Pearson is the teacher. She’s tutoring Tremblay in French.
Learning languages and tutoring have been two of Tran-Pearson’s favorite activities in high school. She’s helped failing students pass and actually enjoy their classes, she said.
“It’s good to push yourself at school. I don’t regret any of the choices that I made, but sometimes it’s easy to feel like you need to do so much,” she said. “That’s not really what education should be about.”
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.