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Playing a path less travelled


Rae is taking a two-year leave of absence from her school to pursue a piano performance diploma under renowned pianist Andrzej Jasinski. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Rae is taking a two-year leave of absence from her school to pursue a piano performance diploma under renowned pianist Andrzej Jasinski. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

WHILE her peers are poring over their books in school, Pung Rae Yue, 14, is taking a less conventional route this year - to tickle the ivories. She is taking a two-year leave of absence from her school, St Hilda’s Secondary.

The young pianist will use that time to pursue a piano performance diploma under renowned pianist Andrzej Jasinski, who has taught many concert pianists and judges top music competitions.

From next month, Rae will shuttle between Singapore and Italy, spending about a month in each country. She will also travel to various countries for performances and competitions.

“Getting to learn from Prof Jasinski is a good opportunity and I hope to improve my skills even more.”

Rae has not attended a day of lessons since Secondary 1. She only goes to school to take her examinations. Her parents decided to hire tutors to home-school her, which gives her more flexibility in her schedule.

Rae gets up at 8am, followed by three hours of practice. She then spends the rest of the afternoon with her tutors until 6pm. Her day ends at midnight, with another three hours of practice after dinner. She plans to sit the O levels next year.

“I want to be a concert pianist but if I don’t succeed, I need something to fall back on,” she said.

In the meantime, she plans to keep on competing. Earlier this month, she topped the under-18 category at the first edition of the Piano Island Festival organised by Singaporean pianist Wang Congyu.

She won S$500 (RM1,495) and a scholarship to perform at the Alion Baltic International Music Festival in Estonia, and the Blue Danube Festival in Hungary later this year. Last year, she took part in 10 competitions and was placed first in nine of them. Taking part in competitions helps develop her stage presence, Rae said.

Rae’s music journey began at the age of three, when her mother, Gan Siew Hui, 41, started teaching her to play. She was four when she enrolled in the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music as a private student under Prof Thomas Hecht and Assoc Prof Albert Tiu. The two often attended her performances and gave her feedback afterwards.

Asked if she feels like she is missing out by not being around people her age, she shook her head. “This arrangement allows me to work towards my dream. Everything I do now is for the sake of my music.” — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Education , piano , school , on hold , Pung Rae Yue

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