Piano prodigy credits mum's food

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am

A teenage piano prodigy, who won the top prize in an international competition, says one of the secrets of her success is her mother's home cooking.

Last week Wong Wai-yin became the youngest gold medal winner in the 14-to-19 age group in the seven-year history of the Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz, held in Ukraine.

Wai-yin, 14, who has won a string of international awards, said this competition had been the hardest for her, in part because the weather had been so cold.

'It is so cold and dry in Ukraine that my fingers cracked and bled, which hindered my piano exercises,' said the St Mary's Canossian College Form Two student, who began learning the piano when she was four.

'But miraculously my fingers worked really well on stage once the competition kicked off.'

Another significant challenge for the teenager was food. She was worried there would not be many supermarkets or restaurants in Kiev where she could buy something to eat.

Fortunately for Wai-yin, her mother had the foresight to pack for her a mini-rice cooker, a small bag of rice, cans of ham and congee she had cooked herself.

'At the worst time, only a bowl of congee with salt was served,' said Wai-yin's mother.

'But my daughter didn't care about it at all. She even comforted me, saying 'It's already very good to have something to eat'.'

And Wai-yin did not endure the hardships for nothing. She outperformed more than 70 other pianists from Russia, Ukraine, Poland and France in the intermediate competition.

'My mum's support is crucial to my success,' said Wai-yin. 'I really feel grateful and happy even if there's only a bowl of congee.'

With both parents being classical music fans, the teenage pianist fell in love with the piano at a very early age and enjoys expressing her emotions through music. Her love of playing piano has also influenced her nine-year-old sister, who is also learning the instrument at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

The biennial competition, founded in 1994 to commemorate Ukrainian-born pianist Vladimir Horowitz, is one of the world's major contests for young pianists.

As the gold medal winner, Wai-yin has been invited to perform in the United States, Paris and Ukraine this summer.