9-Year-Old Boy with Piano Has an Unforgettable Story to Tell
Before His Performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall
On February 20th, New York, USA brought an inspiring news to Xi’an Liangjiatan International School: Simon Yang from XLIS P4C, won the first place in the youth category of the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York on December 24th, 2023. As an outstanding benchmark in the international music industry, Carnegie Hall has always been a place of longing for artists around the world. It is remarkable that a 9-year-old boy like Simon will successfully take the stage at Carnegie Hall. One can’t help but wonder what kind of family education could cultivate such a talented young pianist.”
When meeting with Mrs. Jia, Simon’s mother, her gentle demeanor and deliberate narration give the impression that she doesn’t have grand ambitions for turning her son into a world-renowned pianist. Despite the fact that piano has become a part of Simon’s life now, the origin of learning piano began by chance.
Five years ago, Mrs. Jia and her family lived in Kuala Lumpur. Regretting not having the opportunity to learn a skill from a young age herself, she wanted to create more opportunities for her child’s growth and thus chose piano for her son. Initially, it was just a trial, but 4-year-old Simon was immediately captivated by the sound produced when he tapped the keys with his small fingers. Although the sounds were random and lacked structure, they had a unique appeal to little Simon, and thus began his relationship with the piano.
Five years of practice have passed in the blink of an eye. Since the day Simon started learning piano, 40 minutes of daily practice has become an unbreakable family routine. While interest is the starting point of learning the piano, it takes more than just liking it to become skilled and proficient. Daily persistence and hard work are essential. The tedious music theory, difficult parts of new pieces, a playful and restless nature, and occasional emotional setbacks can all be stumbling blocks on the path to piano mastery. In such situations, Mrs. Jia doesn’t force Simon to sit at the piano, but instead loosens the reins a bit, allowing him to play and have fun to adjust his mood before practicing. “Guiding is more effective than commanding,” says Mrs. Jia. Over those 1,800 days and nights spent with the piano keys, the moonlight was not the only companion for Simon, but also his mother’s unwavering presence.
Simon’s diligence paid off. In 2021, recommended by his piano teacher in Kuala Lumpur, Simon participated in the prestigious IMAA International Youth Art Competition China Finals. He passed each round with flying colors and ultimately won the first place in the final held in Dalian, China. Recalling the experience, Simon’s mother, Mrs. Jia said, “Due to the quarantine requirements during the pandemic, I carried a 25-kilogram electronic keyboard across the ocean to ensure Simon could continue his practice. Although it was challenging, I knew that not playing the piano for even a day might not show much difference, but after three days, there would be a noticeable gap. I wanted practicing the piano to become his habit.” Winning a top prize in his first international competition boosted seven-year-old Simon’s confidence, and he became even more dedicated to practicing. Piano playing not only helped him improve his skills but also enhanced his coordination between hands, brain, and heart, as well as his focus, patience, and character. These daily practices quietly molded Simon’s character.
“Shy but not introverted, Simon is a gentle boy.”according to Mrs. Jia’s evaluation of her son. Through his piano practice, Simon has developed enduring focus and a tenacious character that have transferred to all aspects of his academic learning. In 2021, Mrs. Jia and her family moved from Kuala Lumpur to Xi’an, and since Simon had already received an IB education in Malaysia, they chose Xi’an Liangjiatan International School without hesitation to secure a seamless continuation of his education. Mrs. Jia believes that the most valuable aspect of the IB curriculum is its student-centered approach, where teaching and learning start from the students’ interests and teachers need to understand their students’ cognition and thoughts about things rather than just directly imparting knowledge. Additionally, the IB program’s curriculum may seem to only have an outline but actually demands higher requirements for students’ comprehensive abilities.”
“The inquiry-based learning unit has sparked Simon’s keen interest in natural science. When encountering unfamiliar questions, he is accustomed to searching for answers on his own, watching all three seasons of the Serengeti Nature Reserve documentary and patiently trying to solve problems independently, truly embodying the student’s position in exploration,” Mrs. Jia added. Simon’s transformation is not only reflected in his learning but also in his interactions with teachers and classmates. Mrs. Jia still remembers when Simon first started kindergarten, he would cry every time he entered the school gate and would not say a word when he returned home from school. Now, he looks forward to going to school every day, not only getting along well with his classmates but also becoming good friends with some older students. On the way home from school every day, he cannot wait to share his campus life with his parents.”
When asked about any excellent parenting experience to share, Mrs. Jia said that Simon’s current achievements cannot be achieved by family education alone. It is the result of joint education between family and school. In particular, she mentioned that the school has been making comprehensive efforts since the beginning of this year, by holding a variety of informative and practical activities for parents to listen to their voices, solve their most urgent parenting concerns, and enable parents to bring the harvest back home and apply it in their family education practices, fostering a positive climate. “The school has changed a lot in recent years, especially the Parent-Principal Coffees and Parent Open Day, which give me the opportunity to step into the campus, understand how the school operates every day, and see what my child is like at school every day. This can effectively eliminate misunderstandings between parents and the school and enhance mutual understanding.” Mrs. Jia is also a member of P4 PTA, and to be a good “sound tube” between the family and the school, she habitually checks school emails every day and hardly misses any information released by the school.”
At the end of the year, Simon will embark on a journey to New York and step onto the stage that many great musicians dream of. It seems like a path towards the development of a new generation of pianists is unfolding before our eyes. However, as a mother, Mrs. Jia stated that she has never planned any specific or concrete growth goals for her son because in her opinion, the purpose of learning piano is not to cultivate an artist, but to enable children to have the ability to perceive beauty and music from a young age. When he encounters setbacks in his growth, he can release and regulate his emotions through music, making music a lifelong companion.
Just like the excitement that Simon couldn’t conceal when talking about his trip to New York, his journey of life has just begun, and there are more surprises and experiences waiting for him at the unknown corners. What kind of person he will become is up to him to decide.
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Fancy Fan (Admin Officer)