Doris Hernacki has been teaching Carly Rose Sonenclar the piano for five years — and doing her part to help her student advance on “The X Factor.”
“Last week, I voted 175 times,” she says with a laugh. “I usually vote 100 times a week. On the phone, I keep hitting redial. You can make a lot of phone calls in a minute.”
“She’s a very good piano player,” Hernacki says. “She’s such a hard worker. That work ethic, which you can see when she’s singing, I saw at the piano, too. She would play a piece and maybe have a little slip here and there — which most students would be perfectly fine with – but she’d say ‘Can I try again? I know I can do better.’ It always came from within. I looked forward to every lesson.”
Hernacki, who goes to Carly’s home for the lessons, says the 13-year-old is an intermediate player, quite an achievement for a multi-tasking teen.
“Even when she was on Broadway, she’d find a way to practice in between the scenes. She’d go on tour and she and her mom would bring a keyboard with them or find a piano wherever they were. She always had her sheet music with her.”
Her classical repertoire includes Grieg, Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” and Clair de Lune.
“She loved Clair de Lune,” Hernacki says.
The “X Factor” star’s last visit with Hernacki was in October.
“I hope that after all this excitement is finished, that she’ll continue. But who knows?” Hernacki says. “Her life and her family’s life has certainly changed.”
While “The X Factor” is all about pop, Sonenclar’s repertoire is “really open to all kinds of music.”
“Her vocal work has gone in the realm of jazz and soul and she has been playing some nice jazz music for me, too, and some Broadway shows. Whatever was next in the book or whatever I would bring she’d be excited to try.
“The other thing she loves, and one of her early influences, was The Beatles, because her father used to play them all the time. So I brought her a Beatles book so she learned a lot of Beatles songs.”
Over the past two years, Hernacki has been teaching Sonenclar how to accompany herself on the piano, “which is not easy.”
“The thing is you have to be so confident in your piano playing that you can transcend it with your voice. You can’t be worried about the notes. You have to go with the flow so the voice can go with it. But she’s so musically talented that even though she had to work at it became very comfortable for her.”
Sonenclar composes, too.
“She can sit down at the piano and create. There are so many facets to her musicianship that it amazes me.”
Her songs are pop-sounding, her teacher says, but because she has the classical background, a trained ear can hear that the theory is at work.
“Every week, I would arrive and she’d say ‘I wrote another song. And they were really great.’ She’s a solid intermediate player with expression that’s just oozing out of her.”
“I would always say: ‘How old are you?’ like Simon Cowell says.”
But the piano teacher has never suggested, as Cowell has, that the 13-year-old is an alien.
Hernacki first heard Sonenclar’s rendition of “Feeling Good” – which wowed the judges at her “X Factor” audition – last summer at the Jazz Forum Arts outdoor festival, which she won.
“It was as good as it was at the audition,” Hernacki says. “She’s just so musical that it’s fun to be a teacher.”