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Hudson pianist takes second place in international competition

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John Michael Berdusco’s fingers blur as he plays one of the pieces from his competition. He took second place. 2 / 3
Berdusco’s certificate shows he won second place in the piano competition. (submitted photo)3 / 3

The award-winning pianist sits in his brightly-lit workshop, fingers playing with his piano keys as he talks. He has recently returned from a summer competition abroad, but he also speaks to his other interests, including video games, math, drums and basketball.

After winning an international piano competition in Spain, John Michael Berdusco is now working on his next project: sixth grade.

Eleven-year-old Berdusco began playing piano in first grade in school and enjoyed it enough to start his own private lessons. He said it is the rewarding aspect of playing that got him interested.

“It sounds good when you get the songs that you’ve heard on the radio,” he said. “Listening to the radio is effortless, but piano is hard.”

This summer, he participated in the International Benasque Piano Competition in Barcelona, Spain. His piano teacher, Reid Smith, encouraged him to participate, something he was excited to do.

“Just because it’s a challenge,” Berdusco said.

It turns out he was more than up to the challenge. Berdusco won second place. He performed the songs “Guitars of Seville” by Mauro Giuliani, “The Return” by Cornelius Gurlitt and “Run Run” by Octavio Pinto.

“It felt good because my dad made a bet that if I placed I’d get a UTV, and my mom promised me to get a phone,” Berdusco said.

Despite their slight shock at his second-place award, mom and dad paid up.

Though most of Berdusco’s time in Spain was focused on “piano, piano, piano,” he did have one day off, and he hiked the Pyrenees Mountains with his family and friends.

“We were the ones just sprinting ahead of everybody,” he said.

This is not the first time Berdusco has participated in piano events abroad. Two years ago, he was a part of an international piano conference in Milan, and he is invited to attend another piano competition in St. Petersburg next year.

While abroad, Berdusco and his family took the time to visit more of Europe, including Sicily and Venice, the home of his grandparents.

Now back home, Berdusco is working on twelve new music pieces, half of which he will learn by the end of summer. His training is solely in classical music with composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Joseph Haydn. His favorite song is Megalovania, by Toby Fox, the Undertales theme song.

“My favorite piece, but I can’t play it,” Berdusco said. “It goes farther than my hand reaches.”

In addition to playing piano, Berdusco also plays violin, guitar, recorder and drums, though he said piano is still his favorite instrument.

“I know it the best,” he said.

Berdusco’s other activities are as varied and lengthy as his musical accomplishments. He plays soccer for both his Mounds Park school and Hudson, he plays basketball and he is learning golf.

His favorite subject in school is math, but his honor pre-algebra class is definitely making things interesting.

“It’s a lot harder than I expected it to be,” he said as he recounted some of the most difficult questions.

Outside of school, Berdusco is working on developing his own video game, a first-person shooter similar to Call of Duty. He attended a game app design camp this summer and will be taking a one-week app development class at school this year.

He is also a “major” Pokemon card collector, though he does not play the new Pokemon Go game. It didn’t have the same challenge he is used to with his other pursuits.

“It gets very repetitive,” he said.

If that wasn’t enough to keep Berdusco busy, he is also working on the piano piece for his school’s orchestra while the middle-schooler and his family consider a trip to St. Petersburg for another competition.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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