In the heart of Southern California, amidst the warmth of the sun and the gentle sway of palm trees, nine piano students embarked on a journey that would take them far from the familiar comforts of home. Their destination? The iconic cityscape of New York City, a world away from the laid-back vibes of the West Coast. With their hearts set on a grand performance at none other than Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, these aspiring musicians eagerly packed their bags, not just with sheet music and practice books, but also with a spirit of adventure and determination. Little did they know, they were about to face more than just the challenge of mastering their pieces.
As they landed in the bustling metropolis, they were greeted not by the warmth they were accustomed to, but by a chill that seemed to seep into their bones. Snowflakes danced in the air, painting the city in a blanket of white—a sight so different from the sunny shores they left behind. Undeterred by the cold, the group pressed on, their excitement buoying their spirits as they navigated the maze of New York’s streets. Along the way, they encountered the quirks of city life—the towering skyscrapers, the bustling crowds, and yes, even the infamous $20 hot dogs that seemed to defy all logic.
But amidst the hustle and bustle, their focus remained steadfast: they were here to make music. Rehearsals became their sanctuary, each note a reminder of the hard work and dedication that brought them here. With every practice session, they honed their craft, perfecting each crescendo and diminuendo until their pieces sang with a brilliance that was sure to resound through the halls of Carnegie. Finally, the day of their performance arrived—a day filled with nerves and anticipation, but also with an undeniable sense of pride. As they took their places on stage, the lights dimmed, and the music began to flow. From the gentle melodies of Schumann to the thunderous chords of Rachmaninoff, each piece was a testament to their talent and passion.
And as the final notes faded into the air, they knew they had achieved something truly extraordinary. For these nine piano students, braving the cold, the snow, and even the absurdly priced hot dogs was all worth it for the chance to share their music on one of the world’s most prestigious stages. As they took their bows amidst thunderous applause, they couldn’t help but smile, knowing that they had made their mark on the hallowed halls of Carnegie.
Alexander Vu discovered his passion for piano when he was only five years old. He composed his own pieces and gave them creative names, such as “The Turtle”, “The Garden”, and “The Car Ride”. He also sang along with the melodies he played. He joined the Little Chopin Piano Studio with his two sisters and participated in various workshops, rehearsals, recitals and concerts. He has won several awards from competitions such as the United States International Duo Piano Competition, Southwestern Youth Music Festival, Carmel Klavier International Piano Competition, IAPMT Concours International Piano Competition, and Joyeux Music International Festival. He has been studying piano for about eight years with Ms. Molly Nguyen, Ms. Ruby Shih, and Ms. Ting Chuan Huang. He prefers playing pieces from the romantic and contemporary periods, especially by Chopin and Barber. His favorite pianist is Lang Lang. He is currently an eighth-grader at the Orange County School of the Arts, Piano Conservatory, where he has learned from masterclasses by Dr. Sarkis Baltaian, Mrs. Kelly Neff, Prof. Bernadene Blaha, and Ms. Fureya Unal. They have also helped him improve his musical skills and expression.
Allison Phan, a 12-year-old pianist, is currently attending the Pianist Program at the well known Orange County School of the Arts. Her musical journey started at the age of six under the talented instructors Ms. Ting Huang and Ms. Molly Nguyen at the Little Chopin Piano School. Since the age of eight, Allison has won numerous top prizes in both national and international competitions. The most well-known are the Pacific Stars International Piano Competition, the International Piano Professionals Association Conero Competition, the Southwestern Youth Music Festival, the Satori Summer Music Festival, the United States International Duo Piano Competition, and the International Association of Professional Music Teachers Competition. This year, Allison has won multiple Solo and Ensemble First Prizes, notably, two Grand Prizes, one at the International Association of Professional Music Teachers competition and one at the Satori Summer Music Festival. Allison was also honored with the title of The Young Kawai Artist after being awarded First Place in the Virtuoso Solo category at the IAPMT competition. This recognition is a true reflection of her exceptional skill and passion for piano. Allison has also been invited to showcase her talents at many Winner Concerts for Solo and Ensemble Performances in distinguished venues such as Soka Performing Arts Centers, Azusa Pacific University, and the upcoming Carnegie Hall. Outside piano, Allison is an active Girl Scout Cadette. She earned her Bronze Award at the age of ten, and her Silver Award at the age of twelve.
Ashley Tran, born in 2010, developed a passion for piano at the age of five. She has been studying at Little Chopin Piano School for seven years and has won several national and international piano competitions with her impressive performance, flawless technique, beautiful expression and flair for the dramatics. Some of these prestigious competitions include the United States International Duo Piano Competition, Southwestern Youth Music Festival, Carmel Klavier International Piano Competition, Rocky Mountain Ensemble Competition, Satori Young Pianist Contest, Conero International Piano Competition and IAPMT Concours International Competition.
She graduated from Peter’s Elementary School’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program and was accepted into the Piano Conservatory at the renowned Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in Southern California for seventh grade. In 2023, Ashley won multiple first place prizes in the IAPMT Concours International de Musique de Chambre and the Grand Concours International competitions, earning a coveted invitation to perform at the Soka Performing Arts Center in August 2023. These achievements have led to her remarkable opportunity to make her debut at Carnegie Hall in January 2024. Besides playing piano, Ashley enjoys reading and swimming. She is a multi-talented artist who can also do graphic design, gaming, cross stitching and knitting. She earned her Girl Scout Bronze award in 2022 and participated in a benefit concert to support musicians with disabilities.
Bella Dang is a 15-year-old sophomore at Mater Dei High School in Orange County, California. She lives with her parents, who work as a healthcare provider and a professional entertainer. Bella has a passion for law and hopes to pursue a career as a lawyer. She also has many hobbies, such as swimming, surfing, dancing, volleyball and playing the piano. She is particularly talented at the piano and has been learning it since she was 4 years old. Her teacher, Ms. Molly Nguyen, has helped her achieve a high level of proficiency and recognition. Bella is a young and talented musician who has won several prestigious awards and performed in various renowned venues. She started her musical journey in 2018, when she received the Exceptional Young Talent award from The Virtuoso International Music Competition and played at the Musikverein Glaserner Saal Auditorirum in Vienna. The following year, she achieved the first place in the Young Musicians Concerto Competition and had the opportunity to perform with the Orchestra Collective of Orange County and at the Carnegie Hall in New York. In 2022, she was invited to Italy to join the Recanati City Orchestra under the direction of Lorenzo Di Bella, in a concert that was attended by the city officials. Bella also enjoys playing chamber music with her fellow pianists and winning various national and international awards with her team. She has appeared on local Vietnamese television several times, accompanying her mother’s singing with her piano skills. Bella loves these opportunities to meet and learn from other talented musicians and professionals. She has developed more focus and self-confidence through her musical experiences. Her dream is to travel the world and explore different cultures. She is determined to continue improving her skills while pursuing her education and becoming an outstanding individual.
Benjamin Hoang started to learn piano when he was 6 years old. Realizing his passion for piano, his parents decided to have Ben join Little Chopin School of Music and take lessons with Ms. Melody Chiang. Ben loves to perform at school’s recitals, and he loves to compete in piano competitions where he travels to new places and meets new friends/competitors. Under the guidance of Miss Chiang, Ben’s love for classical music grew stronger and stronger. At Little Chopin School of Music, he had chances to compete in many piano competitions, to name a few: Southwestern Youth Music Festival competition, International Association of Professional Music Teachers competition, United States International Duo Piano competition, International Mozart Competition Vienna, International Piano Professionals Association competition, etc. Aside from the love for music, Ben loves to swim competitively and to play chess as well. At school, Ben has been a part of the school’s philharmonic orchestra, he usually skips lunch to hang out with his music friends in the practise room. Ben is also an active boy scout, he believes that boy scout helps him build characters and shape up his leadership. No matter what the future holds, music will always be a part of Ben’s life, like what water is to fish.
Jennifer Vu, age 15, is a sophomore student in the piano conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts. She has been taking piano lessons under the guidance of Ms. Ting Chuan Huang and Ms. Molly Nguyen at Little Chopin Music School for eight years and has enjoyed playing the piano since she was seven years old. She has won several competitions locally and internationally, including the United States International Duo Piano Competition, Southwestern Youth Music Festival, Indonesia International Piano Competition, Diamond Bar Performing Arts Contest, Golden Classical Music Awards, Carmel Klavier International Piano Competition, Conero International Piano Competition, International Association of Professional Music Teachers (IAPMT) Concours International Piano Competition, Satori Summer Music Festival, Indonesia Global Music Championship, and Joyeux Music International Festival.
Katelyn Vo, born in 2008, started her musical journey at the age of five. At the age of 6, she enrolled in the Little Chopin School of Music in Orange County, CA. Under the guidance of her dedicated instructors, Katelyn’s passion for the piano began to flourish, laying the foundation for her musical endeavors. Since 2019, Katelyn has been actively competing in various piano competitions across the United States. Notable among her achievements are First Prize at the 2022 United States International Duo Piano Competition in Colorado in both duo and quartet, First-Place wins at the 2022 and 2023 Satori Young Pianist Contest in the solo categories, First Absolute Prize Winner, 30th Young Musician International Competition ‘Citta di Barletta’, Italy, Category A, Piano Ensemble, 2nd Place, Conero Final Round Youth Piano Duo/Duet, 2022, along with a recent First Prize at the Online London International Music Competition. In addition to her musical pursuits, Katelyn is a sophomore at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, CA, where she participates in their Piano Program. Driven by a genuine desire to make a positive impact, Katelyn aspires to work in the medical field to extend a helping hand to those in need. Her goal is to contribute to the well-being of individuals, leveraging her skills and compassion to provide support and care within the healthcare community.
Rachael Vu, age 17, is a senior student in the pianist program at the Orange County School of the Arts. Rachael has been taking piano lessons under the guidance of Ms. Ting Huang and Ms. Molly Nguyen at Little Chopin Piano School for twelve years. She has received recognition in solo, quartet, duo, and duet competitions, locally, nationally, and internationally. She is a winner of several piano competitions: Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, Satori Summer Music Festival, Joyeux Music International Festival, Indonesia International Piano Competition, Golden Classical Music Awards, Musical Arts, SYMF, Carmel Klavier International Competition, DBPAC, MTAC Concerto, United State International Duo Piano Competition, Fullerton College Piano Ensemble Festival, International Association of Professional Music Teachers (IAPMT) Concours International de Musique Online, International classical Music Talent Competition, Indonesia Global Music Championship. At OCSA, she is dedicated to her chamber and ensemble groups, where she performs with strings and winds players under the guidance of Dr. Nicholaus Yee and Dr. Wenjing Liu. She also enjoys accompanying classical singers. She has participated in masterclasses with the following well-known pianists: Dr. Eva Polgar, Dr. Phoenix Park-Kim, Dr. Vlada Vassilieva, Dr. Anatoly Zatin, Dr. Rufus Choi, Professor Shun-Lin Chou, Dr. Sarkis Baltaian, Ms. Fureya Unal, Dr. Judy Huang. She is highly committed to community service, creating a club, “Music To My Ears,” with her friend, where they perform monthly musical concerts at a local senior home. Her favorite composers are Mozart and Chopin.
Born in 2008, Tramy Nguyen discovered her love for music at a young age when she took singing after her mother. She later began studying piano at the age of 7 in 2015. She has been studying piano for 8 years first starting with an individual instructor for a few months before transferring to Little Chopin Piano School, where she continues her piano study with patient and dedicated teachers. Under the guidance of her of her piano instructors, Tramy received the opportunity and participated in her first international competition in 2017, the Carmel Klavier International Competition, where she performed in a quartet. Since then she has attended local competitions such as the Southern Youth Music Festivals and international competitions. She has won multiple awards with her teams, including first and second place: First Prize London International Music Competition, IAMPT, 2023, 2nd Place, US Concours International 2022-2023, 2nd Place Winner, United States International Piano Duo Competition and more. Through these experiences, Tramy not only gained invaluable performance experience but also had the opportunity to learn from other musicians and judges, further improving her skills and musical interpretation. She is always seeking new challenges and opportunities for growth. She enjoys expressing herself through music and loves the friendships she has made through her musical journey. Aside from piano, Tramy takes interest in arts but also enjoys reading, listening to music, singing, and spending time with family and friends.