Young pianist strikes right chords to win award, perform in Los Angeles

Kiyo tickling the ivories with her mother cum piano teacher P’ng at their home in Johor Baru. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

LAST year, little pianist Kiyo Nai Yow Jia missed out on the chance to perform at famed Carnegie Hall in New York due to financial constraints.

The seven-year-old girl’s dream to perform on an international stage finally came true this year.

Kiyo won first prize at Golden Classical Music Awards and was invited to perform at the winners’ concert held at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

She also won a special prize in the exceptional young talent category.

Her mother P’ng Kher Ching, who is also Kiyo’s piano teacher, said she made it a point to start saving up early when they made a submission for the competition last year.

“It took me about a year to save up as I did not want Kiyo to miss out on another chance to perform in the US if she won.

“She already missed out on an opportunity last year to perform at Carnegie Hall – the ultimate destination for the world’s finest musicians – and I did not want her to be disappointed again.

“Even before the results came out, I bought flight tickets to get a cheaper fare.

“I told Kiyo that if she won, we would head there to accept her award and if she did not, we would take it as a holiday to reward her for her hard work,” she said when interviewed.

P’ng, a 38-year-old single mother, said Kiyo prepared and worked hard, from choosing a song – complete with edits to make it suitable for someone her age to play and for it to resonate with the judges and audience – to practising daily to perfect a three-minute recital.

“We were thrilled to learn that she not only won first place, but was also among the youngest to perform at the winners’ concert where she played her winning song, Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Minor,” she said.

P’ng added that their six-day trip was an eye-opening experience as her daughter got to mingle with some of the world’s best musicians and watch others perform at an impressive music hall.

In August last year, The Star highlighted Kiyo’s achievements where she competed against much older pianists, putting her name and Malaysia on the world map.

At such a young age, she has competed in 22 countries, of which she won first place in 16.

P’ng also said Kiyo recently completed her Grade 8 certificate from Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, United Kingdom.

“She has surpassed me by leaps and bounds as I only received my Grade 8 certification when I was 18 years old.

“She recently started composing jingles and songs.

“I am very proud of her as her mother and piano teacher.”

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