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Silas Noble will compete in Sanford Performing Arts Center’s Hanna Powell Memorial Piano Competition

by Laura Snyder Smith

“Will I still be able to play piano?” was the first question Silas Noble asked his attending nurse when he awoke from surgery.

Doctors had just removed a growing brain tumor, and the nurse joked, “I don’t know, could you play before your surgery?”

By that night, he was cleared to test out his chops on the piano in the Maine Medical Center lobby.

“Oh I was super relieved, so happy,” he recalled, saying he didn’t skip a beat.

Fast forward four years, and 22-year-old Noble is competing next week in the second annual Hanna Powell Memorial Piano Festival at Sanford Performing Arts Center with other young pianists from around the state. He’ll be playing Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” and one other tune; right now he’s undecided between Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or a more classical selection.

A 2018 Sanford High School graduate, Noble is currently living in Orono as a physics major with a minor in math at the University of Maine. But his passion has always been playing piano. Sometimes that’s classical piano, other times it’s whatever fits the mood, whether that’s movie soundtracks, Queen or Elton John tunes.

“Music has always made sense to me,” he said by phone. 

He came to the piano quite by accident.

“We inherited a baby grand piano when I was 8. The only thing, no one in my family knew how to play it,” he said. As a family, they started taking lessons. “Everyone else was just kind of dinging the keys, and I developed some skills really fast. It just made sense to me and then I went kind of crazy with it.”

In high school, he played in a hobby band with beloved physics teacher Scott Keeney and friend Dean Johnson, also playing with The Sanford Redskins, and he occasionally filled in as an accompanist for school concerts. He spent almost every free block in the school’s practice room playing piano, and locally he has played regularly at Oak Street Bistro and the Town Club.

In Orono, he sang with the Black Bear Men’s Choir and served as assistant accompanist. He has expanded the university’s improv club to include piano, and after UMaine’s president heard him play in that format, she asked him to play the Maine Stein Song at a faculty year-end celebration.

Piano has helped Noble through some big life challenges these last few years, and though he doesn’t know exactly what’s next after graduation next year, he’s pretty sure playing piano will be key. 

The public is invited to come out and celebrate Maine’s brightest young pianists in a free concert Sunday, February 12, at the Sanford Performing Arts Center. The concert, from noon to 2:00 pm, is the final round of competition for talented young musicians before a live audience in the Hanna Powell Memorial Piano Competition, honoring Sanford’s beloved music teacher, friend, mother and wife.

The second annual competition is open to pianists aged 15-30 who live or study in Maine. Finalists will compete for cash prizes, $2,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. An additional $1,000 High School Honor Prize will also be awarded to the top high school student.

Tickets are not required for this event. For more information, call the box office at (207) 206-1126, or visit in person Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to noon.

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