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The piano prodigy

Youth.SG got up close and personal with the winner of the Singapore Steinway Youth Piano Competition, See Ning Hui.

At a tender age of 16, See Ning Hui has completed grades 1 to 8 of piano, obtained two diplomas and competed in various prestigious competitions, like her first competition, the National Piano and Violin competition in 2003. Her latest achievement was representing Singapore in the first Southeast Asian Steinway Youth Piano Competition. At 16, I had no discernable musical skills and was battling my O levels.

That is why she is the one with the enviable string of accomplishments. Ning Hui's interest in piano was sparked by watching her elder brother's practice sessions. So spurred on was she that she 'forced' her parents to let her have a go at learning piano. The vivacious then 4-year-old auditioned for a private music school, which was taken aback by her spunk and her age. Nonetheless, she was accepted and she has been trailblazing her way to success.

Initially, her dad was not keen on her passion for piano. He thought that it would be just a phase, like it had been for her brother. However, he warmed up to the idea and she recalled her dad tuning in to Symphony 92.4 FM, bypassing all other radio stations for all of their drives together and she smiled at the memory, saying "I think it was the time he decided to accept it more."

Ning Hui had an uneventful childhood. She recalled: "My childhood was not particularly interesting, but it was quite okay." She was not wildly clambering all over the playground, preferring instead the company of cartoons showing on the telly and trips out with her parents. 

An introvert, she vividly remembered having to perform in a musical for her kindergarten graduation concert and absolutely hating it.


LITTLE NING HUI AT THE PIANO

"Music has helped me expressed the feelings that I can't through words," she mused. "When you have to go on stage and play solo, you have to learn to be confident of yourself."  Now, she is a definitely a more self-assured presence on stage but would prefer to let her fingers do the talking on the piano.

She was however not always this self-assured. When she entered Raffles Girls School, her passion for piano wavered when she discovered her academic bent. She did well in humanities subjects like history and literature, and thought that it could be a alternative career. But two years ago, her piano teacher, Albert Tiu reignited her passion for music. It was then she knew that piano was the career she wanted to pursue.

In between studying and practicing for piano competitions, it is a wonder how Ning Hui finds the time to live a little.

"I have to juggle, a lot," she laughed.

That means having her priorities right and be singularly focused on what is important at the moment. This means when she is not practicing the piano, she is, simply put, mugging on her studies.

She has such little free time that if friends were to ask her out for shopping or movie, they have to give her ample advance notice.

RUNNING HER FINGERS ACROSS THE KEYS OF A GLOSSY STEINWAY GRAND PIANO

Ning Hui recently competed in the Singapore Steinway Youth Piano Competition. She came up tops against 18 semi-finalists and represented Singapore in the 1st South-East Asia Steinway Youth Piano Competition Regional Finals last month.


NING HUI (THIRD FROM LEFT) AT THE SINGAPORE STEINWAY YOUTH PIANO COMPETITION

Discussing future plans, she aspires to be a classical pianist, composer or even a piano teacher.

I asked her: "If you could play for anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?"

"Chopin maybe, though honestly I would not know what he would think about my standard. But just to meet him, he's one of my favourites." In that instance, she was like any ordinary teenager, albeit one with a prodigious amount of talent, who just wanted to meet her idol.


FREDERIC CHOPIN 
PAVELLASMUSIC

In 10 years, she hopes to take her passion as far as she can, performing and teaching. With dedication like hers, I think she would go really far in pursuing her dreams. Not many people have the privilege to do something they absolutely love for a living. Youth.SG wishes Ning Hui all the best in her future endeavours!
Images courtesy of CommunicationsDNA