Kevin Cho plays the piano in his Valencia home on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) declared him a state winner in the junior piano category and he has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Valencia piano prodigy shares artful expression

At age 14, Valencia resident Kevin Cho has already performed at Carnegie Hall, twice.

And next month, the piano prodigy is competing as a finalist in the Music Teachers National Association’s Junior Division piano competition finals.

The West Ranch High freshman has been studying piano for 10 years, and is currently a student of Rufus Choi, a distinguished Steinway artist and his mother, Agnes Kim, DMA.

But the instrument is more than just a competitive outlet for the talented musician — it’s a form of expression, he said, during a recent interview in the family’s home.

“Often for me, it’s hard to express my ideas through words, sometimes I have trouble, whether it’s about the final AP exam, or what we did over the weekend,” he shared, “but with a piano, I feel that it’s a whole other universal language, and that’s what makes music really special to me. It’s something that everybody in the world can understand.”

Starting at age 4, Cho began studying the instrument, and realized that, through his playing, he could make people smile, which is one of the things he most enjoyed.

Kevin Cho poses with his award in his Valencia home on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) declared him a state winner in the junior piano category and he has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

It actually started when he learned how to play “Happy Birthday,” for his grandmother, before he had a full grasp of the alphabet, he said. His mom, who has a doctoral degree in music, wasn’t sure her son was ready for such a challenge.

“While it was only 20 seconds, I must say,” he said, based on his grandmother’s reaction, “it was pretty successful.”

He felt a passion for sharing that joy, he said, which drives him to practice and play.

It’s spurred him onto earning numerous honors and recognitions at various piano festivals and competitions.

He was featured as a soloist with the Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra and the Southwestern Youth Music Festival Orchestra after winning their concerto competitions.

Kevin Cho poses with the piano in his Valencia home on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) declared him a state winner in the junior piano category and he has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

His most recent accomplishments include the Grand Prize at the Young Muse International Music Competition, First Place at the Lansum International Music Festival and First Place at the James Ramos International Music Competition, all within last three months.

The Southwestern Division MTNA Piano Competition is the next step, taking place between January 5-7, during the MTNA Conference

The winner of this competition will compete in the National Finals during the MTNA National Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in March.

While piano practice can sometimes be a lonely experience, he said the reaction from a crowd when he takes a bow following a performance is what makes it all worthwhile.

In fact, he still remembers his first performance in front of a crowd at age 9, when he played the final note, and then got up to see the audience’s reaction.

“When I played the last note of that Mozart concerto, and I took a bow, I saw the faces of the audience, and their faces showed so much joy, just like my grandma showed,” he said. “And that reminded me why I first started playing piano.”

Kevin Cho plays the piano in his Valencia home on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) declared him a state winner in the junior piano category and he has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

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