Young piano star loves big crowds

·3 min read

When he first started piano lessons at age six, Darwin Chen didn’t imagine that four years later he’d be taking the stage at one of Canada’s premier music festivals, but that’s exactly what he did this week at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

Chen, who lives in Brandon with his family, performed in the Royal Conservatory’s inaugural “Music Lights the Way” piano festival this month. The finale took place on March 21 and 22 at Koerner Hall.

Taking the stage to play a jazz piece called “Happy Times,” Chen told the Sun before he left that he was looking forward to performing at the Royal Conservatory, a non-profit music education institution and performance venue that was established in 1886.

“I love that I get to perform in front of big crowds, and I love that I get to perform in front of my family,” he said.

Even though he’s no stranger to performing in front of an audience, having recently taken part in the Brandon Festival of the Arts, Chen said he can sometimes still feel nervous before he sits down at the piano.

“I get nervous,” he said. “But I don’t worry too much. I keep calm and play my song.”

Chen has been taking piano lessons with Sherridan Anderson, who said there’s no doubt in her mind the youngster has a rare gift for music, since September 2020.

“He is an exceptional talent. There’s no doubt about it,” Anderson said.

While many students can excel in music, Chen’s high quality as a piano player doesn’t just come from his vast knowledge or flawless output at the keys. Not only is Chen a diligent worker, but the passion and enjoyment he gets out of playing is what truly sets him apart, his instructor said.

“He always has such a joy about him with it,” she said. “Beyond the brilliance of what he does, it’s the joy that he does it with.”

Anderson said it has been an honour to teach Chen and be part of his musical path, adding that she is very proud of the boy.

“I’m counting myself very fortunate to be able to be investing even a little bit in what I’m sure will be a great musical journey for him,” she said.

At his young age, Chen hasn’t thought too much on whether his future career will be one centred around music. But there’s no doubt in his mind that music will play a part in his life, one way or another.

“It’s lifelong,” he said of his relationship with music.

Chen’s advice for other kids who would like to take piano lessons or get involved in music in another way would be to make sure it’s something they love doing.

“I think you should enjoy the music that you’re playing. And always be proud of yourself.”

Information on Chen’s placement in the festival was unavailable at press time.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun