Poster Mississippi Valley Orchestra
Mississippi Valley Orchestra performs at First Lutheran Church in 2014
courtesy the artists

Mississippi Valley Orchestra features young pianist Collin Jinks

High school sophomore Collin Jinks has come a long way since he first started playing by ear on an electric keyboard. The young pianist, who has made it to the featured round in Classical MPR's Minnesota Varsity, has found great success over the past year, winning or placing in numerous competitions.

Most recently, Collin won first place at the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra's Rising Stars Competition on Jan. 17, and as winner of the St. Paul Piano Teachers Association Concerto Competition, Collin will perform his winning concerto with the Mississippi Valley Orchestra on Feb. 22.

Collin Jinks was just seven years old when his Korean grandmother purchased a synthesizer as a Christmas present for Collin and his two younger siblings. One of the default songs on the machine was from The Lion King. "I would just play it and push the keys along and kind of put the puzzle pieces together and match it up," he said.

By the time he was seven, Collin started taking lessons from a teacher named Solvay Peterson. Peterson recognized his talent and eventually knew when it was time to move him to a more advanced teacher. Then, just last year, he realized that he wanted to take his training even further and began studying with Jo Anne Link of Crocus Hill Studios, which trains a number of young musicians bound for competitions.

According to Link, Jinks is a natural pianist. "He has a tremendous gift and a tremendous desire to play," she said. He's also naturally sensitive and is able to communicate his love of music and piano through his playing. "He's just a dream to work with," said Link.

According to Collin's mother Tina Jinks, Collin has grown tremendously since he began studying with Link just over a year ago, and her son agrees. "I've never played like I have prior to being with her," Collin said.

Jinks has long considered a potential career as a concert pianist, but he knows that's a really tough profession. "I definitely want to explore performance as a career," he said. He's made sacrifices, such as giving up baseball, because he didn't want to harm his fingers. He still enjoys photography, however, taking pictures with his Nikon of nature, people and "anything that involves experimenting," he said.

Jinks finds something spiritual about playing the piano. "It's so empowering for me and I love it beyond belief," he said. "It's a liberating experience."

On Feb. 14, Jinks heads to Classical MPR's studios to record for the Minnesota Varsity competition. He entered last year with a Schubert impromptu piece, but didn't make it into the featured round. He had more luck this year with Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody. After further judging and an online vote, five young musicians from the featured round will be selected to appear at the Fitzgerald Theater on April 19.

For the Mississippi Valley Orchestra concert on Feb. 22, Jinks will be playing the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. "I've always been a huge fan of Beethoven," Jinks said. "It's spirited and so energetic." While it has fewer notes than something like a Rachmaninoff concerto, Jinks thinks the simplicity of the Beethoven actually makes it more difficult. "You're so exposed on stage," he said.

According to Brian Jewell, board member and violist for the Mississippi Valley Orchestra, this is the 18th year that the orchestra has featured the winner of the St. Paul Piano Teachers Association concerto competition in their spring concert. He says that every year he's blown away by the talent that the young people deomonstrate.

The Beethoven piece that Jinks will be playing, Jewell says, is one that not many members of the orchestra have played. It will be part of a concert that also includes Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 and Jim Pugh's Concerto for Trombone, with soloist Doug Wright from the Minnesota Orchestra. The concert will be held at First Lutheran Church in Columbia Heights on Feb. 22, at 4:00 p.m.

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis-based writer. She writes frequently for the Twin Cities Daily Planet and City Pages, among other publications.

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