Twins Ulrika Lee Yuen Thong and Felice Lee Ying Theng are only seven, but their names have gained entry into the Malaysia Book Of Records (MBR). They are the youngest twins to simultaneously pass the piano Grade 8 examination with merit from Trinity London College, an examination board based in London.
They received their certificates on Sept 23.
The girls started their first piano lesson in December 2020 and completed their course in July.
The Puchong-based twins took less than 24 months to complete the Grade 8 examination, despite having less than 12 months of physical lessons due to the movement control order due to the pandemic.
"My sister Ulrika and I are happy that our names are included in the MBR. Now, we are working hard to complete our Diploma in Piano Performance. We are also planning to learn the violin soon," said Felice, a Year Two student at an international school in Subang Jaya.
Their mother, Zoei Khoo Siew Hoong, 42, said her daughters have enjoyed dancing, singing, and performing on stage from an early age. Khoo also plays the piano and reckons this could have fostered the twins' love of music and piano.
"They showed great interest in music and would try to replay songs they heard on the piano. Then, when they were four, I noticed my girls would spend countless hours playing simple melodies on their mini keyboards.
"While both twins had a strong interest in music, Felice, the younger twin, showed great talent. When she was five, she could play Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon on her own just by exploring the piano keys.
At six, she would play and sing Ed Sheeran's Perfect with her twin sister," explained Khoo, who is PETRONAS' head of delivery of infrastructure.
With encouragement from their piano teacher, the twins improved dramatically within a short time using different methods. It included daily flashcards to memorise piano notes and finger stretching exercises to strengthen finger works, Khoo shared.
"Different technical methods were used to improve scale exercising, concentration and sense of rhythm. The twins had double lessons each week to accelerate their progress.
Examination pieces were chosen based on the twins' character, capability and endurance," said the mother of three. In total, Khoo spent RM18,000 on their piano lesson fees.
To complete their Grade 8 examination in two years, the girls each spent about four hours on the piano daily. In Khoo's three-storey home, there are three pianos, including a baby grand piano.
"Despite the pandemic, which has curtailed most of their physical lessons, the twins continued to practise diligently at home for up to eight hours daily. During the MCO period, they used video conferencing and guidance from their music teacher to enhance the effectiveness of their music lessons."
To ensure their progress was on track, Khoo sent the twins' piano practice recordings daily to their music teacher. Effective communication with the teacher was essential as online lessons were very challenging for the young children.
"I was surprised when my daughters wanted to take the Grade 8 exam during the pandemic since I was worried they might be frustrated by the lack of physical guidance and the challenging online lessons.
Despite being so young, both girls achieved outstanding achievements through their love of music, determination, and hard work. I am proud of their grit and determination."
Felice and Ulrika both walked away with gold and silver medals respectively at the 2022 Malaysian Piano Competition recently. The competition is a joint initiative by the Euroasia Association of Performing Arts (Euroasia) and the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation (MYOF).
Having successfully groomed her twins, Khoo has now turned her attention to her son, Samuel Lee Jun Xian, five, hoping he can follow in his sisters' footsteps.