Raking back any stray black strands from her forehead, Chelsea Pan ’14 smoothed the creases in her floor-length, dark lavender dress, exhaled softly, and gently pressed her finger to the first key.
Pan played the piano at the Lincoln Center in New York for the American Fine Arts Festival, and at Azusa Pacific University for the Los Angeles Young Musician International Competition.
Through the encouragement and recommendation of her teacher, Pan auditioned for AFAF, a national music competition for highly qualified musicians of all ages.
Pan performed Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 11 in A minor last June for the qualifying round. She began learning the piece towards the end of her sophomore year, balancing two hours of daily practice on the piano, academics, and training as the first singles player on the girls’ junior varsity tennis team.
“It was definitely tough devoting that much time to the piano when I had so much else going on,” Pan said.
For the qualifying round, AFAF judges traveled across the country to audition musicians and score their performances. Pan had her audition at Cal State Long Beach. She was nervous to audition because she knew that she was among many other talented musicians.
“It was really nerve-wracking because I knew that all the other participants auditioning were really skilled and experienced,” Pan said.
The final results were posted on the AFAF website, and the selected winners from each state, including Pan, were invited to perform their pieces in New York.
“Though I was so nervous during the qualifying rounds, at the actual festival, I was more excited and eager to be on the stage because I knew that I’d come so far,” Pan said. “And I loved getting to know musicians who shared my love for music.”
For the LA Young Musician International Competition, Pan performed Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, competing against musicians from across the United States, Europe and Asia. Pan passed both selective rounds and qualified for the final performance.
Pan was happy to have the opportunity to meet and learn from a wide array of other musicians.
“It was a great experience; I loved getting to hear different styles and technique from musicians from all over the world,” Pan said.
Pan began the piano at the age of four, with the support and eager prodding of her music-loving parents. Now, 12 years later, Pan pushes her way through her daily octaves, which Pan said is the hardest part about the piano because her hands are so small.
As her pieces have become more advanced and technically challenging, Pan allocates consistent hours of practice every day, despite taking four AP classes, playing the flute in the school Symphony and playing on the junior varsity tennis team. Despite her busy schedule, Pan said she enjoys playing the piano and expressing herself to others through her music, as she did at AFAF.
“The most rewarding part about the festival was when some of the audience members came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed my piece,” Pan said. “Their comments really made me feel that all my practicing was worthwhile.”