Eight years ago, Emily Montgomery, 17, received a piano from her grandmother. At the time, she had no idea how to tickle the ivories and, truth be told, she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to learn.
“My grandma pushed me to start piano. I was like, ‘Whatever, I don’t think I’ll do that,’” Montgomery said. “I just remember her bringing the piano in with my parents and she’s like, ‘No, you’re going to learn this,’ and she’s very sassy. So I just started taking lessons.”
The lessons have paid off. Last year, the Shiloh Christian School senior, who has developed a love for playing piano, memorized four advanced classical pieces, earning her a Degree of Excellence award from the Guild National Piano Association.
The Mandan native is a keyboardist on her school’s worship team and says the four-year experience has helped her grow in faith.
“I enjoy the worship team because I love playing piano and I use that as a form of worshiping God,” said Montgomery, who also plays the clarinet in her school’s concert, pep and marching bands. “When I’m up there playing, I just think … that’s my time with God.”
“Emily exhibits the qualities and attitude of a servant leader. She really lives out her faith and is a great example to other students,” Shiloh Christian School Principal Sara Mitzel said. “Emily has such an encouraging, compassionate heart. She’s always looking for the underdog and wanting to reach out to that student.”
Montgomery said she felt like the “underdog” in elementary school.
“So seeing those kids who are not even the underdog, necessarily, but you see them alone .... I always think, ‘Wow, I’ve been in those shoes,’” she said. “I’d always hoped someone would reach out to me.
“I’ve had a lot of great role models in my life who have come through and done that and they’re my closest friends. If I could be that ... I would take that opportunity,” she added.
A lover of the performing arts, Montgomery is also involved in drama and speech. She’s earned more than 40 awards in the latter, with persuasive speech being her favorite competition.
“I couldn’t have done it without our speech coach, Mrs. (Erin) Weichel. She’s been phenomenal,” she said. “Speech has really helped me become a better public speaker. I’ve grown a lot in how to write my own stuff because of it.”
Montgomery, the daughter of Jackie and Ron, tutors in Shiloh’s elementary wing and is a kindergarten through second grade Sunday school teacher at Century Baptist Church in Bismarck.
“I love that age. They’re just learning everything, like how to read and write. Their curiosity for God right now is so amazing and I’m just privileged that I get to teach them stories about God and how they can grow from that,” she said.
She also can be found assisting in her mom’s kindergarten classroom at Shiloh from time to time. During the summer, Montgomery works as a nanny.
Sewing, baking and playing piano are her favorite pastimes.
To underclassmen, Montgomery offers the following advice: “Work hard but don’t be afraid to have fun. Have a good support system because that’s so important, as well as having a firm relationship with God.”
Montgomery has been accepted into the University of Mary’s doctorate program to study pediatric physical therapy, which she says is her greatest accomplishment thus far.