NORTH OGDEN -- North Ogden Junior High music students sat spellbound for one hour as they listened to world-renowned pianist William Joseph tickle the ivories and offer words of wisdom on being successful in both music and life.
A year ago there wasn't even a piano to play at the school. The Legacy Music Alliance, a nonprofit group in Salt Lake City, helped the school purchase a baby grand piano for its music program because the school's piano was 50 years old and falling to pieces.
So when the group started working with Joseph's label to promote his latest CD, it seemed like a natural fit to visit North Ogden Junior High School. Keith Sorensen works for the alliance and was excited to visit the junior high and present Joseph to the students Thursday.
"I have a special place in my heart for the students here," Sorensen said to the group of about 90 music students gathered in the choir room for Joseph's master class.
Sorensen sent out an email to the nearly 100 members of the alliance, letting them know of the school tour Joseph was planning to do. North Ogden Junior High School band teacher Jessica Smith quickly replied. She had heard Joseph's piano playing on YouTube and knew it would be perfect for her students.
"I never thought he would actually come here," she said as she motioned to Joseph, surrounded by her students and madly signing autographs.
Joseph was thrilled to play on the school's new piano.
"I got my start with piano through the Boys & Girls Club," Joseph said. He is a native of Phoenix and was discovered by popular composer and lyricist David Foster. He has toured and played with musicians such as Josh Groban, John Mayer, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, Kenny G, Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Michael Buble, but he loves performing for the students.
"I'm excited to be on the flip side," he said of educating the students about his experiences.
Joseph picked a student, Tiffany Betzer, out of the crowd and had her play three notes. From there, he quickly composed a song. Students looked at each other with their mouths gaping as he and local violist Aaron Ashton played the song and then named it after Betzer.
The 14-year-old couldn't believe how quickly he put the song together and now wants to work a little harder in her own piano studies.
"Now I know I need to learn my chords," she said.
Joseph told the students they needed to focus on three things: being prepared, gaining knowledge and experience.
Allora Clark left feeling inspired. The 15-year-old was around last year when the new piano was delivered to her school.
"I'm really amazed at how he does that," she said. "It was really inspirational."
His advice to stick with things and succeed has motivated her.
Seventh-grader Ryan Enslo walked out of the class covered in William Joseph signatures -- on his hands, arms and his band book.
"It was just so awesome," he said. "I want to remember it when I am older."