Performing live is perhaps one of the most nerve-racking things a person can do. Maybe when it's for a good cause, some of the stress is alleviated. Victoria Ruggiero is ready to take on the task.

On Friday, the 15-year-old Lancaster native will be playing a charity concert for the Response to Love Center, a charitable group formed by Sister Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz that tends to the needs of the Western New York community as well as the victims of the earthquake in Haiti..

Victoria will be playing piano at the event. The Lancaster High School sophomore has been playing piano since she was 2 years old.

"My mom noticed that I kept walking around the house humming and singing to myself, so she put me in piano lessons to see where it would go," Victoria said.

A good investment now that Victoria has been given the opportunity to learn from a professor from Juilliard, one of the most prestigious music schools in the world.

Once a month, Victoria travels to New York City to practice piano at the home of Juilliard professor Martin Canin. Victoria says she would like to attend Juilliard as a student one day, and would love to live in New York City. Most of all, she says, she would like to become famous not for her playing, but for her composing.

"I love piano, but I love composing more. One of my pieces is currently in a competition. It's really nerve-racking, waiting for results," she said.

The only thing more worrisome for Victoria than waiting for the results is performing. No matter how many times she performs, she says she still gets nervous before every performance. She says she hopes that with enough practice, her anxiety will eventually disappear.

"I wanted to do this concert, not only to help out [the Response to Love Center] but so I can be put under pressure. When I do enough performances, it will just feel like another run-through," Victoria said.

Not only does Victoria play piano, but she also teaches at Mary Handley's Piano Studio in Amherst. Victoria says the class consists of people "from 5 to 50" and can be taken by anyone.

Added to Victoria's musical pursuits is her love of singing. Though very bashful about her singing abilities, Victoria can't help singing and humming to herself as she goes about life, including in class, much to the chagrin and enjoyment of her teachers.

About a year ago she started taking vocal lessons with Sebnem Mekinulov, and she's a member of Lancaster High School's Concert Choir and Vocal Jazz. An honors student, she also participates in the school's marching band as well as the Kiwanis Music Festival, and she's listed in the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Victoria's fellow band members enthusiastically detail all of her musical exploits, to the quiet embarrassment of the virtuoso herself. She finds a way to remain modest even as her classmates excitedly, and as they will tell you, a bit enviously, wax poetic about Victoria's prowess on the piano.

Victoria will not be the only teen performing at the benefit concert Friday. Cori Jaskier, also a Lancaster sophomore, will be singing a song written by Victoria's great-grandfather called "Una Sera Di Gioia."

Victoria will be performing in a trio with two teens from City Honors -- Jacob Cohen on the violin and David Skrill on the cello.

The concert, also titled Una Sera Di Gioia, or A Night of Joy, will be at Blessed John XXIII Church, 1 Arcade St., West Seneca. It begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed up by a reception with refreshments. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students, and all proceeds will go directly to the Response to Love Center's Haitian relief efforts.


Kristen Brown is a sophomore at Lancaster High School.