Growing up, I was surrounded by all kinds of arts in our family: from piano to painting, from singing to ballet. My mom is an amateur church musician who learned violin as a kid, plays the piano, sings, and conducts. She brought all kinds of music into my eager ears. It was my grandmother, a professional dancer, who took me to my first ballet lesson and her dance rehearsals. She also had a ballet bar installed in my playroom when I was only four. I still remember those beautiful summer days I spent with my aunt in a nearby park sketching, while she set up her easel and artfully swiped her oil-paint-covered brush perfectly down the white canvas.
All these arts opened my eyes, but there was only one of them that really touched my heart, and that was music. At age 3, I was able to sing most of the songs from The Sound of Music and dreamed of one day living in a house with staircases to act out the farewell scene at the party scene. I was speechless the first time I heard my mother's friend aunty Bin Huang 黄滨, the famous violinist, rehearsing for church event at my home. In the night I spent at aunty Huang's concert at Lincoln Center with a big flower bouquet, I told myself I want to be one day on that gorgeous stage.
My dream became even closer when a new piano was brought into my home when I was three. Inspired by my mother's practice, I started to clamber onto the piano bench and search for melodies I knew of on the mysterious keys. I curiously searched the Cs in different octaves. I taught myself Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Mary Had a Little Lamb. I listened intently, trying to learn more melodies or make up my own. I watched DVDs in amazement as concert pianists made their fingers fly across the ivory keys and developed many different colorful sounds. I thought to myself: Those fingers are magical! I want to be like that!
Now, I am a young pianist myself. More than seven years have passed since the day I started piano lessons, and I have improved more than I expected. In the past summer, I entered competitions like Gina Bachauer and Ettlingen. I must admit, I was really scared at first. I had never seen so many accomplished young pianists of my age in one room. I was transformed from that-girl-who-plays-piano-and-won-the-school-talent-show to just-another-one-of-us-in-these-prestigious-competitions.
I have always known that many of these young pianists work harder than I could imagine. I know I am blessed with a beautiful concert piano at home to practice on. I always have a full school education completed with loads of tests, homework, play dates with my best friends, and many fun after-school activities. When I heard how much these young pianists have to practice and how much they benefited through it, I was mad for some unknown reason and demanded to my mom, "How come you didn't make me practice more when I had time in elementary school?"
But I know in my heart that my dad and mom made the decision they thought was right for me. They wanted me to grow up not just as a pianist but also as a happy girl with many good qualities. I know that if they did make me practice more then, I would be a different child now. I would feel bitter about piano, and even loose all my passion for it.
Piano has indeed been such a joy in my life. When I practice at home, I don't just play. I make up stories. Every voice or hand is another character, another actor in the show. I played my first Chopin Waltz when I was seven. I imagined a little girl, who got cancer, murmuring to her mother before she was lifted up to heaven. My music made my teacher cry in the studio. In Liszt's Waldesrauschen, I felt like I was in a magical land where roses budded and bloomed in fast motion and fairy dust trailed everywhere. All these stories made my piano playing so much fun!
Of course, just like any other girl of my age, I would easily prefer going to the mall with friends to practicing. But when I am away for vacations, I feel completely lost without touching those black and white keys. I feel frustrated about difficult places in the music and do not like using a metronome and practicing slowly, but I really like the wonderful result of what my teacher calls "ground work." So I have always been trying my best.
Growing up in church, I always believe that music is one of the two special gifts God has given to this world: His love through Jesus and music, and He must have a beautiful purpose. The more I play the piano, the better I understand why Bach wrote so many wonderful pieces for Him. Music has brought great joy to my life and my family. I really enjoy making other people feel the same joy. I am a soprano in my church's worship team, served as an accompanist at church services, and started playing my favorite pieces to the lonely grandmas and grandpas in senior centers since I was six. I feel so proud that I have a part when I see how joyful people are by listening to my music.
More than joy, I really feel I was born to be a concert pianist some day. I know my connection with music and my passion about music are given. It is the very special gift God has prepared for me. Piano has been part of me. It has become my best way of speaking, singing, and even writing. I feel like a novelist spending hours composing fantasies on these keys. Music has made up who I am, and without it, I would be empty. That must be the very meaning of my life.