Alumni Spotlight

Payton Fors

Former Student of Catherine Walby (piano)

A smiling young woman in a blue dress stands next to a board featuring her psychology research.

Payton Fors, former piano student of Catherine Walby, is currently a senior at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in cognitive neuroscience and minoring in art history. She also competes in cross country and track and field, and she conducts psychology research. Aside from music, her hobbies include running, cooking, sharing meals with friends, reading, collecting records, and going to Bible study.

What instruments do you play, and how long have you been playing?

I started piano in first grade, and took lessons through the end of junior year of high school. I also sang in choir in high school!


How do you continue to incorporate music in your life, and how has studying music benefitted you as an adult?

The St. Louis symphony puts on wonderful concerts, and I enjoy attending those as well as attending concerts for my friends that play in our school’s orchestra. Personally, I play the piano for fun when I have the time.

Music taught me that you can solve a problem many different ways, and that problems that seem impossible may just take time to solve. For example, when I would get stuck on a measure of a piano piece, fumbling the wrong notes over and over again, sometimes intentionally playing the notes with the wrong rhythm “jolted” me out of my misplaying!


What was your favorite part or memory from your time at the Community Music School?

I have so many fond memories of the Community Music School! I did particularly love, in the later spring, how I’d see the trees by the parking lot full and green, and how the sun would still be visible, just setting. It was really peaceful – music and nature together! I would walk outside after my lesson with the WONDERFUL Ms. Walby and consistently felt centered.


Do you have any advice for beginning musicians?

Practice sight-reading!


Anything else you'd like to share?

Although I no longer play piano competitively, or quite regularly for that matter, learning an instrument has given me an appreciation for music and for creativity that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Music moves people, and it’s a wonderful gift to share with others. I personally got very nervous playing in front of others (including my own grandparents)! Yet, when I look back, I see how they just wanted to partake in the joy that I felt with piano.

So, remember: music sticks with you, and music should be shared!


2 photos: 1) Several women run on a track and jump over hurdles into the water. Payton is seen midair over a hurdle; 2) Payton and her cross country teammates cheer at a meet, dressed in wacky attire including striped pajamas, capes, and mismatched shorts

(Top) Payton competes in track and field. (Bottom) Payton and her teammates cheer at a cross country meet.