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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Accomplished sophomore pianist premieres a famous composer’s waltzes

With jet-black hair perfectly matching her grand piano, sophomore Vivian Wang smiles at the camera, albeit a bit awkwardly.

Her demeanor is playful, perhaps simple, and it shows in her music. Listening to her gives a sense of simple, even childish, happiness. She’s anything but flashy.

After playing piano for 10 years, Wang had her first taste of the music industry by accident, in July of 2010. Composer Robert Livingstone Aldridge had composed three waltzes for the world premiere of the Music Teacher’s Association of California Convention (MTAC), only to have the original performer forfeit.

Wang’s teacher, Olya Kapman, was contacted about the predicament. Wang readily agreed, and soon was assigned the three waltzes. Unfortunately, she had only three weeks to learn three “extremely difficult” pieces that had never been performed before.

“I was nervous … I had no inspiration for the piece, so I could perform it however I wanted,” Wang said. “I did my best to interpret the piece as well as I could, which was a challenge.”

The other challenge, Wang said, was that Aldridge is a guitar player whose pieces are heavily influenced by this instrument.

“The last piece was extremely hard because he had these chords that were extremely big. He made parts of the piece sound like you were playing the guitar,” Wang said.

The convention was to be a world premiere, which added to the pressure, but Wang considers the performance a success.

“My teacher didn’t tell me how famous Aldridge was until after the performance because she didn’t want me to be nervous,” Wang said. “But overall, I had a really good time.”

A few months after the convention, Wang was contacted by Aldridge himself, who was highly impressed with her performance. Aldridge requested Wang to record the waltzes she played at the convention to be uploaded onto YouTube and offered to pay her for her time.

Wang’s skill at piano is the result of natural talent and a lot of work. On weekdays, she squeezes in about two hours of piano practice, and on weekends practices five to six hours a day.

The hard work has also led Wang to succeed at various competitions. Her favorite music memory occurred during the fourth grade, when Wang entered the United States Open Music Competitions.

“I was an underdog,” Wang said. Despite being the youngest in the group (“Everyone else was 14 or 15”), Wang placed first, playing “Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum” by Debussy.

Additionally, Wang performed in two solo concerts in 2009 and 2010, each drawing an audience of about 200 people.

“I learned so much repertoire that year that I didn’t know what to do with them,” Wang said. Her teacher suggested that Wang might as well give a recital by herself to “finish them off.”

Over the 10 years of her piano experience, Wang has made many long-lasting friendships, one being Kapman, her piano teacher since kindergarten.

“We’re really close. It’s kind of scary because she basically watched me grow up in front of her eyes,” Wang said.

Wang also befriended several other fellow musicians from North Carolina, Taiwan and Australia at California Summer Music, a three-week camp in Sonoma County she has attended for the past three years.

Wang wants to major in music in college and eventually plans to become a piano teacher.

“When you become a piano teacher, you not only get to teach music, but you also get to manage your own schedule, and if you have a good reputation then you can get more students and manage your own salary,” she said.

Wang has already started to prepare to apply for her dream colleges, such as New York University’s Steinhardt School, Manhattan School of Music and Peabody.

“Right now [the] first step is applying to different music camps. Teachers from around different schools teach at music camps, so by going to camps I have connections,” Wang said.

These connections with teachers are valuable, for if teachers are impressed with the student, they will be willing to write a letter of recommendation for the musician to their dream colleges.

Wang’s outstanding ability in piano at such a young age is something that she does not take for granted. She is firm in her decision to keep pursuing the best she can be in music.

“I don’t plan to become famous or anything; I just want to have something I enjoy doing as a part of my life, which is making music,” Wang said. “If music didn’t exist, I think I’d probably go crazy.”

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