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Hilary Heideman Mauler and Tiffany Winkel Delgado knew ever since they were little girls that they wanted to come to BYU and study piano performance.

But they never imagined winning national piano competitions, especially not as a duo.

Now ready to graduate, the future looks brighter than ever for them.

“This has just been a really fun experience,” Tiffany said. “We’ve gained a unique friendship, and we’ve definitely created a certain kind of trust that we wouldn’t have developed otherwise. ”

The duo has spent countless hours together in practice rooms in the Harris Fine Arts Center, learning repertoire and focusing in on the most minute details of their performance. They spent all of last summer and fall practicing and getting ready for the United States International Duo Piano Competition, which they went on to win.

The USIDPC features competitors from Russia, Taiwan, Korea, China, India, Canada and the United States. Judges receive hundreds of entries on CD. From there, 70 competitors are chosen to perform before the judges in person, and it's there that Hilary and Tiffany found their way to the top.

Hilary and Tiffany went on to compete in the National Federation of Music Clubs Ellis Duo Piano Competition, performing a two-hour program, including two full concertos. On arrival, the duo quickly realized they were up against professionals with doctoral degrees. No matter, the BYU pianists went on to win that competition as well.

They will perform their winning piece, Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations, at the BYU commencement exercises in the Marriott Center on April 25.

It’s been a learning experience to get to this point. Both say being able to give and take critiques has been essential, from each other, and from the coaching of their professor, Irene Peery-Fox.

“All my life I’ve been a solo pianist,” Hilary said. “This has been a whole new experience working with Tiffany. It’s totally different than working on your own.”

After graduation, both will continue to perform together. Winning the Ellis duo competition means, along with capturing the notoriety of winning such a big event, the national federation will arrange concerts for them for the next two years. Although both will be spread out geographically after graduating, they’re excited to make performing together in the future work.

Looking back to where they started from, both Hilary and Tiffany said they feel a sense of relief and accomplishment to be graduating from BYU.

“I had no idea how hard it would be,” Hilary said. “The workload is a lot, but emotionally, what you’re developing isn’t just technique; you’ve got to learn how to put your soul into the pieces.”

“Lots of hard work,” Tiffany added, “but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”