Local 10-year-old violinists, friends win international music contest

Sophie Wang and Gianna Chen
Sophie Wang and Gianna Chen won first place for their violin duet in the spring 2022 King’s Peak International Music Competition.
(Tingting Wang)

Young Carmel Valley musicians Sophie Wang and Gianna Chen won first place for their violin duet in the spring 2022 King’s Peak International Music Competition. The pair of 10-year-old violinists took the top prize for their performance of a minuet by Bach in the ensemble category in the 8-10-year-old age group.

“I was very surprised because I didn’t expect our duet to do that well and to win first place,” Sophie said. “I was also very proud of our accomplishment.”

Sophie just finished the fourth grade at Solana Ranch School and Gianna attends Solana Pacific School. The girls have been good friends since kindergarten and they both started learning violin at age seven, with violin teacher Tingting Wang in San Diego.

“I picked the violin because while watching videos I loved listening to the music and I thought to myself that I wanted to play the violin,” said Sophie. “ I like the violin because whenever I started playing it, the sound of it would throw me into a whole different world.”

Sophie started lessons with Wang in March 2020, online only due to the pandemic. After 11 months of weekly online study, Sophie got the Distinction score (the highest possible mark) in the grade two exam with ABRSM, the exam board for the Royal Schools of Music. The exam includes the performance of pieces, scales, aural tests and sight reading.

“She’s very good at self-study and thinking,” Wang said. “No matter what I teach to her, she always shows me more than I expected. I’m so glad to have her be my violin student.”

Thanks to a high recommendation from Sophie’s mom, Gianna started studying the violin with Miss Wang in July 2020, along with her younger sister Julia. It was challenging at first being online only but Gianna’s dad helped the lessons run smoothly even though he has no music background, Wang said.

“When teaching to Gianna, she has lots of sparkling ideas and answers in her mind, which gives some fun in lessons,” Wang said. “She loves playing violin duets with friends since her sister plays the violin too.”

Gianna said she choose the violin because she likes the sound of the instrument. She has since gone on to play with the San Diego Youth Symphony.

Wang said she had the girls participate in the King’s Peak competition just as something different to incorporate into her lessons. After the girls practiced together just a few times, she sent their performance off to the judges without any hope of a prize.

“The most valuable thing is not about having any prize, it’s about the happiness, joy and motivation in this journey for students,” Wang said.

The girls have found a lot of happiness in playing music together.

“Gianna is very talented in the violin and I very much enjoy playing with her because we share a lot of fun together during the process,” said Sophie. “It’s a great experience to play with a friend and succeed together.”

“I like playing music with Sophie because it’s fun to play with a good friend,” Gianna said.