Laura Mitchell Atkins, a 1994 Eaton High School graduate, returned to her alma mater Wednesday, April 16, to play a newly donated piano.
Atkins, a now professional pianist, graduated from Eaton High School in 1994 to attend Weaton College where she earned her degree in Piano Performance. Atkins then returned to the area to attend Miami University to earn her Master’s of Music and Piano Performance.
“I had great experiences playing in the band,” said Atkins of EHS. “I had a good education here and it prepared me for college.”
Although beginning her music career on the piano, Atkins also played the clarinet throughout her high school education. Atkins participated in the marching band as well as performance band.
“As soon as I figured out how to make a sound, I asked for a fingering chart,” said Atkins of the clarinet.
“I always knew from the start that she was going places,” said previous band director, Tad Stewart. Playing piano after high school graduation was something Atkins knew was in her cards. “I couldn’t imagine not” playing the piano, said Atkins.
Beginning her journey as a pianist, Atkins began playing at just five years old. “I went to pre-school one day … my mom picked me up, and she was making lunch and I picked out on the piano the song that we had learned for the day, and she thought they had taught it to me on the piano and this went on for a couple of months. Then she figured out that they weren’t teaching it to me, that I was just figuring it out. So, she had to ask a lot of people before any body would teach a five-year-old, no one wanted me,” said Atkins, laughing.
Finally, Atkins was taught by a member of Lyric Club. “They just said, ‘I’ll teach her, if she doesn’t behave, or whatever, we’re going to quit in two months’.”
As the first time she’s been back to EHS, Atkins is in awe of the new auditorium.
“This is incredible,” said Atkins. “I wish it were here when I was here. I’m just glad Eaton has this, I think it’s really cool.”
Stewart said, “When I knew they were going to build this, that was the first thing I thought of, was bringing her back,” said Stewart. “She was the first person I thought of when I thought, ‘what can we do in here?’”
Atkins will be the featured soloist with the Eaton Area Community Band during their spring concert to be held on April 27. She is also a 15-year member of the Ohio Music Teacher’s Association and the Ohio Music Club.
The piano is a 6’6” Yamaha Conservatory Piano, donated by Dr. David and Janet Sikora.