MUSICAL MUSINGS: He’s the concertmaster, he’s an award-winning musician, and he’s only 11

Last Saturday, I played in a concert featuring a young (11-year-old) piano soloist named Roger Xia, who also happened to be the concertmaster of the ensemble.

He performed Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 as concertmaster and then Ludwig van Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano as soloist.

Now I know I’ve had my fair share of rants concerning prodigies (see “The benefits of having a tiger mom,” “Sarah Chang makes me feel inferior” and “Little musicians drive (slightly) bigger musician crazy”), but watching Roger’s fingers fly across the piano keys sent a whole new wave of envy through me.

Of course, the concert wasn’t the first time I had heard him play (he’d been running through the piece with us for months in our weekly rehearsals, and I’d been hearing his violin solos since the fall), but there was something different about watching him perform on-stage and seeing the whole hall stand up to applaud him.

I mean, the kid’s feet didn’t even touch the ground, yet I would’ve sworn I was listening to a professional musician if I had closed my eyes!

But the real shock came when I got home that night and read his bio in the program.

Here are some of the highlights:

1) Roger started playing piano when he was 4 and violin when he was 6. Well, I have him beat on the violin—I was four when I started—but I was already nine when I began playing piano…

2) At the age of 8, Roger performed as a piano soloist with the Merced Symphony Orchestra. At 8 years old, I was still whining about having to do 15 minutes of violin practice a day…

3) Last year, Roger performed in Carnegie Hall as the first-place winner of both the American Fine Arts Festival Golden Era of Romantic Music International competition and the American Protégé International Music Talent Competition. That was probably about the time when I had my most disastrous concert ever—I was playing a Bach bourée from memory and forgot the entire left-hand part. I spent the remaining three minutes of the piece plucking random bass notes with my left hand that gave a more dissonant feel to the melody…

4) On Saturday night, Roger performed Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano along with a lengthy encore piece perfectly and all from memory. That night, I spent a lengthy amount of time air-bowing a difficult passage in the “Enigma Variations” and hoping that the conductor wouldn’t call my bluff at the reception. Oh, yeah, and I came in late on the Beethoven concerto because I was too busy watching Roger…

On the bright side, when Roger is older (maybe 15?) and is a world-renowned pianist, I can point him out to all my average friends and say that I knew him. Maybe he’ll even remember me: that old girl who played violin in a wonderfully mediocre way.


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