- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - All things considered, John Tucker would probably prefer to have his music speak for him.

That’s OK, because the pianist’s music speaks volumes, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (http://bit.ly/1gwmvSk ).

Tucker, 13, was recently named the youngest first-place winner ever in the Michigan Music Association’s Open Pop Division.

Competing against 300 students up to age 18, his interpretation of “Over the Rainbow” proved irresistible to judges and listeners alike.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Tucker, who already earned first-place MMA honors in his age group for his classical playing.

His classical repertoire includes variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” familiar as a nursery rhyme but actually written by a young Mozart.

That was a big achievement.

Given the number of competitors, the Open Pop Division prize almost seemed unattainable.

When the winner was announced, Tucker said, he initially thought he’d misheard the name.

His teacher, though, said any honor that comes Tucker’s way is no mistake.

“He plays with all his emotion; there’s a lot of heart in his playing,” said Peng Hampton, his longtime instructor. “He’s just so musical.”

It helps that Tucker comes from a musical family.

“My grandmother is a professional fiddler,” Tucker said.

His mother, a nurse at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, plays piano and clarinet.

An eighth-grader, Tucker also plays clarinet in the school band at Highlander Way Middle School in Howell.

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