By Karen Billing
Playing a Mozart sonata, 10-year-old Michael Chen’s fingers move nimbly over the keys. Michael moves with the flow of the notes and works the pedals below while wearing fuzzy slippers.Playing a Mozart sonata, 10-year-old Michael Chen’s fingers move nimbly over the keys. Michael moves with the flow of the notes and works the pedals below while wearing fuzzy slippers.
The young pianist recently won first place in the Music Teacher’s Association of California San Diego Branch’s piano concerto concert playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1, third movement. The win has entitled him to play as a piano soloist with the Greater San Diego Community Orchestra at a pair of concerts at the University of San Diego on April 8 and 10.
Michael was also invited to perform as guests arrive for the 2011 Innovation in Education Awards, also held at USD, in May.
“We are very proud of him, he works very hard,” said his mother Sue. “It takes a lot of devotion and can sometimes be frustrating to concentrate on every single little detail. Not every kid can take it.”
Michael, currently a fourth grade student at Sage Canyon, started playing the piano at age 5.
“There was this one song I really liked and I just got interested in it,” said Michael.
That song was Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” and it became quickly clear that Michael had a natural gift.
He started taking lessons from teacher Inessa Litvin, an alumna of the St. Petersburg Music Conservatory, and began entering sonata and concerto competitions. In the competitions, students perform in front of a panel of judges—in the concerto competition players are judged by age group, in sonata contests there are no age restrictions and Michael has scored on the same level as high school students.
“At first I’m usually very nervous but then I just play,” said Michael, who owns his own little competition tuxedo.
February’s win was his first at a concerto competition and Michael proclaimed the victory “cool.”
“He’s not always good at expressing himself with words,” Sue said. “ Music gives him a way to express himself.”
When not playing piano, Michael also enjoys playing basketball and golf, practicing on a small putting green at his home. His goal with piano is just to continue to “enjoy the musicality,” he said.
“I hope to keep playing but I might grow up to be something else like a video game designer,” Michael said.