“First New York, Then the World”
The Cary News
May 28, 2008
By Valerie Marino

Apex pianist Vivian Cheng has some broad aspirations.

“My dream is to be a concert pianist and tour the world, just bring music into people’s lives,” said Cheng, 17. “I’m hoping I can go to Third-World countries and bring music to them.”

Having just completed her sophomore year at Juilliard, Cheng, a piano performance major, is on her way. She has also been invited to participate in the New York Piano Competition June 22-27, a prestigious competition for which only 22 pianists, ages 14-18, are chosen.

Cheng has spent much of her time practicing since returning home from Juilliard last week. She and the 21 others will play a 45-minute solo program in addition to a concerto written by noted composer John Musto especially for the competition.

“Itís a really fun experience for a whole week,” Cheng said of the competition.

Norman Horowitz, executive director of the New York Piano Competition, said the competition is different from most in the respect that no one is eliminated over the course of the week.

“Of the 22 they will all be returning with some sort of prize,” he said. In other competitions they may play one round and have to go home.”

Each student will return home with at least $1,250. Students placing in the top five may take home up to $5,000. Horowitz and the competition’s organizers will also keep in touch with the 22 students long after the week is over.

“We really mentor,” Horowitz said. “We are in touch with probably half [of the former competitors] at this point. And that’s what no other competition does. …We’re still presenting winners [in concert] from 2002.”

Cheng, who said she has been playing piano all her life, has been studying seriously for a number of years.

Before starting Juilliard’s college program she would travel to New York every weekend for the school’s precollege division.

“My father would drive me up every single weekend or I’d take the train,” said Cheng, who was home schooled. ìIt was a very big commitment for both me and my parents.î

One that has surely paid off.

As a full-time student at Juilliard, Cheng said she enjoys being surrounded by people like herself.

ìIt’s a great environment to be in to be around so many people who have the same interests as you, they have the same motivations, the same drive,” she said. “Everyone around you is always working very hard.”

Horowitz said that one thing he stresses to students is the importance of higher education, including a master’s or doctoral degree.

ìWhich means they will be able to get a very important teaching position at a university,” Horowitz said, adding that they could also tour or play concerts.

“Meanwhile they’re gainfully employed and can work toward a pension and be happy in music,” he said. “That’s the more realistic approach.”