Dressed in their Sunday best inside the small church sanctuary, eight students sat on two pews and waited to perform. The pianists, ranging in age from 7 to 16, did little talking.
On stage at St. James CME Church in Tyler, a Yamaha Clavinova, a keyboard and a Steinway baby grand piano awaited students.
At the 10th music recital last month for the Ebony on Ivory Fine Arts studio, experience ranged from one year to more than seven.
“They come before a crowd of people and they play,” Tyler resident and teacher Mary Stewartmyers said. “This builds their self-esteem, for someone to come and listen to them and encourage them.”
As students walked up stairs and sat to play, signs of nervousness appeared. Pursed lips, hesitant hands and shifting eyes marked some of the play. Still, the applause came.
Alyssia Thorne, 11, a first-year student, said she was nervous at first.
She and her sister, Alexandria, 16, started taking lessons because their grandmother wanted them to. She died in March.
Their first recital was important to their parents, who watched and recorded.
“It means a lot because it’s our first time ever being in this,” said their mother Shatony Thorne, 37.
Daniela Hawkins, 7, a second-grader, brought a confident air to the stage. She wore a brightly colored skirt and bright pink sandals, with her hair in a bun.
She sat on the piano bench’s front edge, her feet barely touching the floor. A pleasant smile brightened her face as she played two songs.
When the crowd applauded at the end, she smiled and accepted a hug from her teacher before walking off stage.
“I felt happy,” she said after the recital.
The playing grew more advanced as the night progressed. When some of the most advanced pianists, Mikayla Williams and Breanna Johnson, took the stage, they played smoothly.
Their fingers touched the keys gently with a familiarity stemming from years of practice. And the sound coming from the piano resonated strongly.
A post-recital duet performed by Breanna and Mikayla, who are cousins, had the audience nodding in affirmation.
The girls performed “Break Every Chain,” playing the piano and singing the lyrics that spoke about the power found in Jesus.
“It’s like we’re in our own world, the music world,” Breanna, 16, a Chapel Hill senior, said of what she feels when she plays.
“It’s like nobody’s there,” said Mikayla, 15, a Chapel Hill sophomore. “You can’t hear or see anybody.”
Texanna Crutchfield, 89, of Tyler, came to see her granddaughter, Daniela, perform.
“It’s amazing,” Ms. Crutchfield said. “I enjoy it. I hope she keeps it up.”