REXFORD – "The Force" -- a musical one -- is strong with Addyson Tabankin, a 10-year-old music enthusiast and accomplished piano player from Rexford.
Tabankin is the winner of the 10- to 11-year-old age group in the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Military Kids Have Talent virtual contest.
The video of her performing John Williams’ Star Wars Theme on the piano in her living room advanced her to the finals and then was announced as the winner during an on-line presentation by actor Jacko Sims last week.
“I was surprised,” the 10-year-old piano player said as she stood next to her piano Monday afternoon. “I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finals.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, like many of her peers, schooling was at home as was her hobby, playing the piano. Her mother, Jennifer, challenged her and purchased her a book of music by Williams, that included the Star Wars Theme.
“I really like playing it to my dad when he’s home and we’re fans of Star Wars,” she said.
Currently her father, Shawn, an LTC with the U.S. Army, is stationed overseas in Kuwait. While he has been deployed since January, that hasn’t stopped him from checking in with the family, Addyson, his wife, Jenn, and 9-year-old Ephren.
“She practices with him, she Facetime’s with him,” Jenn Tabankin, said. “She’ll put the iPad [on the piano] and he’ll listen while she practices, every day.”
Musical talent runs in the family, as Jenn learned to play when she was eight and Addyson began when she was just five years old.
While Jenn’s piano was sold prior to her parents moving, Shawn was able to take advantage of a going-out-of-business sale and purchased the Yamaha piano for the family.
For her virtual piano entry, Addyson had the support of another top male in the Star Wars saga, Darth Vader himself at her side.
Addyson moved Ephren’s five-foot tall Darth Vader figure downstairs and held her name plate for her video. With the help of her mom, Addyson was dressed as Princess Leia, complete with pigtails arranged in a circle on each side of her head, channeling Carrie Fisher’s iconic look from the 1977 original Star Wars movie release.
“He's usually up by [Ephren’s] bedroom and he was just kind of moving around,” Jenn Tabankin said. “He kind of hung out here for a while.”
While Addyson is a Star Wars fan, the William’s piece was challenging.
“At the beginning it was really hard, but it got easier now,” Addyson said. “The cords, the first part, went really fast.”
The contest is part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the entries were voted on during a two-week period by the American public. The 36 finalists are all children and survivors of military service members and veterans.
“We created this virtual opportunity because COVID-19 caused many celebrations and milestones to be canceled for military kids and we are delighted by the enthusiastic nationwide response and participation,” Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, stated in a press release announcing the winners.
“We were really only doing it for fun,” Jenn Tabankin said. “I could not believe that she was a finalist and then when she won, we were even more surprised.”
Addyson was notified about being a finalist and grand prize winner via her mom’s email account.
“I called her down and said you have to read this, and she was like 'Why am I reading your email?” Jenn Tabankin said.
Her reaction was recorded and is part of the on-line special on the web-platform Vimeo.
“What is this…wait? I won!” Addyson said in the video. “Oh my gosh! Wait, I won!”
School will begin for Addyson, who will be attending Tesago Elementary School this month, where she will continue taking lessons and practicing.
“I’m playing a lot of Disney songs,” she said. “Right now, the Gummy Bears theme song.”
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] and follow @StanHudy on Twitter