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Rising Artists: Billings Skyview senior finds peace at piano

Nichole Walker
Posted at 12:00 PM, Mar 31, 2024

BILLINGS — How do you deal with stress? It seems more and more like the key question in today’s world. Everyone seems to have a different answer.

Nichole Walker’s is piano.

"I realized it was such a peaceful place for me, to just sit down and play piano," Walker said. "If I was stressed, I'd just sit down and play piano. I feel like I can work through a lot of emotions and thoughts when I play."

Nichole Walker
Nichole Walker started to take piano seriously around 8th grade, when she discovered "how much cool music I could play."

Walker has been playing almost all her life.

"I started when I was five years old," she said. "My oldest sister was the one who started teaching me."

But it was around 8th grade when something clicked.

"I think I realized how much cool music I could play, and how much pretty music I could play," she said.

"She loves the era called the Romantics," added piano teacher Lynn Bassett.

Nichole Walker
Lynn Bassett (right) has been teaching Nichole Walker piano for most of Walker's high school years.

Walker started taking lessons from Bassett shortly after that middle school epiphany. What’s emerged is a confident concert pianist - a surprise to some.

"I’m a little bit shy," Walker admitted. "The nervousness is there, but I’m doing what I love. My favorite thing is that no one else has the music, so no one knows if I mess up."

"When you're not facing the audience directly, not looking into their eyes, you can pretend you’re home or somewhere else," Bassett said. "I can see her overcome her shyness while she plays.

"She has a flair, her own flair."

That flair isn’t just contained to the keys. She’s been an alto section leader in Billings Skyview’s choir most of high school, and recently sang in Lamb of God, an Easter oratorio.

Nichole Walker singing
Nichole Walker (center) sings in the choir during a Lamb of God rehearsal in Billings.

Walker performs a lot for her LDS church, including on the organ, which she's just started to play this year.

"It’s like a mini-piano for your feet," Walker joked. "You have to play the lowest notes there."

Walker also stays busy in band at Billings Skyview high school, playing both clarinet and bass clarinet. But piano is still No. 1. She’s again followed in her sister's footsteps and is teaching others, with nearly 20 students.

"We have recitals around Christmas time, and I feel like I’m smiling the whole time watching them perform," she said.

Nichole Walker
The organ also requires players to use their feet for the lowest notes.

The only thing that might make her happier? Getting those sisters into a recital of their own.

"They both sing, so I said when I’m older, I said all I wanted was to accompany them on piano while they sing," Walker said. "But they won’t do it. They say their voices aren't as good as they used to be, but I keep bugging them."

Sounds like a great graduation gift.

"Yes, if they’re listening," she lauhed.

They should be. It’s a great way to de-stress.