Wyoming Public Schools, MI —
Playing piano moves Becca Hanson's soul. That's why she makes it about something bigger than herself. She likes to share that feeling – indulgent, she calls it – with others.
She's that kind of leader: a poised, soft-spoken doer who realizes the impact that masterpieces by classical composers like Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt can have on people.
"It's a way to make the audience feel alive with me," said the Wyoming High School junior. "A lot of times we are so busy that we forget we are alive."
So after her school and volunteer work is done, she turns to the instrument she's been playing since age 9 and gets lost in the blissfulness of her craft.
Editor's Note: Student Leaders is a series dedicated to students that go above and beyond to serve their school, peers and community
"It's a way to be a little bit selfish and indulge in how the music feels to play, but it also allows other people to indulge in something that brings up memories for them and happy moments," she said.
Selfish may be the last adjective one would use to describe Becca, who recently helped better the lives of others in another way. She hosted "Awakened," a benefit concert to collect food for Feeding America West Michigan food bank at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. With admission set at one non-perishable food item, she gathered three 27-gallon containers full of food to donate.
"I decided to have the recital for a less selfish cause," Becca said. "I didn't feel it was right to go up there and be celebrated myself. There are a lot of things that helped me get to that point. Part of that is seeing how important it is to help the community through my church."
Becca, the daughter of Teresa and Jeffery Hanson, said she visited Iquitos, Peru, where her mother comes from, at age 9, and that's when she became interested in helping eliminate hunger.
"Iquitos is a particularly impoverished part of the country," she said. "I realized food is really hard to come by. I grew up always being aware that some people just can't eat and I realized I've been taking that for granted.
"I wanted to make a difference because do I even deserve to live if I have the advantage of having so much wealth and extra to give to other people? Do I even deserve to live if I don't give?"
One of the Best
Teachers said Becca's leadership stands out in many areas. At Wyoming, she serves as vice president of Key Club and is in National Honor Society. She played the oboe last year in the St. Cecilia Philharmonic Orchestra, is in choir and Science Olympiad and plans to join the debate team.
"Becca looks for opportunities to use her strengths to make those around her better," said math teacher Eric Retan. "Through years of hard work and an incredible ability, she is one of the best piano players I've ever witnessed ... Becca consistently demonstrates kindness, compassion and generosity in my class. She shows genuine concern for others in class. She also has a very strong work ethic."
"She regularly puts hours of work into her piano playing, and she approaches other areas of school and her life with that same fervor," added English teacher Dan Lorenz.
Becca plans to host more concerts for Feeding America. She continues to study piano under the tutelage of Hope College Music Professor Andrew Le and is considering plans for college, flirting with the idea of Ivy League schools. But she isn't sure she wants to major in music. "I'd really like to major in aerospace engineering," she said.
|'Do I even deserve to live if I don't give?' -- student Becca Hanson
That might not be a big surprise to science teacher Stephanie Rathsack.
"I have found her to be very creative not just in music, but in science," Rathsack said. "In Honors Chemistry she was always willing to work hard to make a new lab idea come to completion. She is an excellent classmate and student."
Still, however Becca spends her days, one can bet she will continue to find her place at the piano, filling the room with music and helping change the world, one masterpiece and one can of food at a time.
Feeding America West Michigan
Video: Wyoming High School junior Becca Hanson plays Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata during her benefit concert for Feeding America