Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Carmen Peng: Piano is not just a hobby, it is a passion!

We can't thank Talent Trust recipient Carmen Peng enough for taking the time to share with us a bit about what piano means to her, what her memories are of music and more!

Carmen Peng is a 15-year-old pianist and organist from Nova Scotia, Canada. She started piano at age four and currently studies with Professor John Hansen. Carmen has won major awards in many competitions including first place at NSRMTA Scholarship Competition, first place at Great Composers International Competition: Music of the 20th Century and winning Colin Winter MacIntosh Bach Memorial Award from Kiwanis Music Festival. At Annapolis Valley Music Festival, Carmen has won Acadia University Rose Bowl, Hester Jackson Baroque Award five times, Most Outstanding Pianist, Herbin Bowl, Senior Piano, Vocal under 14 and Chamber Ensemble Award. She has performed for Wolfville Mayor’s Levee, the Canadian Prime Minister, Ted Ex events and was recognized by Nova Scotia Assembly for her musicianship. 

Carmen is an avid volunteer and plays for her school’s Jazz Band and Choir. She placed first at Start it Up as an entrepreneur, and is an organist for numerous churches. Carmen is currently a Finalist for Great Composers International Competition: Rising Stars of America and will play at Carnegie Hall for her first-place win from American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition in December 2020.

What are your earliest memories of your art?
When I was younger, my mother would play classical music in the house as she was cleaning, cooking, relaxing, etc. and I would always listen along with her. I loved listening to Chopin since his lyrical melodies and fast runs made me want to learn the piano and play his music. I started lessons at the age of five and I can remember it took my piano teacher nearly a month to teach me a basic C major since I could never get the correct fingering. It was so hard! Thankfully, after ten years, I can play it.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, in relation to your art?
Piano is not just a hobby: it is a passion. It has played a crucial part in my life - bringing me undeniable joy and delight and it increased my self-esteem. As a high schooler, I hope to complete my RCM ARCT Diploma in the next two years and continue my piano studies at university. In the future, I would like to pursue a career as a classical pianist or piano professor to teach others the joy that the piano can bring. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

My biggest accomplishment I can proudly brag is that I was fortunate to join the One Minute Flashcard Club my piano teacher founded. This club is for novice pianists who are learning how to read notes and identify said notes on the keyboard. There are a bunch of cards with notes ranging from both clefs that you must complete under one minute. If you do, you are able to join, and if not, sorry. I was very proud of that accomplishment since not everyone was able to join. I practiced so much that after the audition (you can only do it once), I threw the cards away. I was five and now ten years later, I feel like an alumnus, which is giving me more bragging rights.

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to your art? Why?
I do not have a good ear. In a literal sense, I constantly have to ask people to repeat what they said since I cannot hear. But in my music studies, it means that I have trouble identifying chords and melody playback when it comes to RCM exams. I'm fine with intervals - thank goodness for songs like Happy Birthday, O Christmas Tree, etc. - however, being able to identify chords and play melodies you hear thrice? It has been my greatest challenge. I don't know why, but the rest of my siblings have excellent ears and I'm pretty sure they have perfect pitch. I've practiced and practiced so much but my ears and brain cannot tell the difference between a triad and a first inversion triad. I'm better at visuals like memorization than aural.

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