Teen's piano lessons pay off

Watching his fingers glide across the black-and-white keys of a piano, it is hard to imagine 16-year-old Allen Yu as a high school student.

It is also hard to imagine that his musical talent spawned from grueling practices strictly enforced by his grandparents in China.

But for listeners of his performances, it is not hard to imagine how Allen Yu, a junior at Shaker High School, has earned a $10,000 scholarship after being picked from among only 25 other students in the country to receive the award from National Public Radio's From the Top program.

Yu said he began playing piano at the age of 6 when he was taken, sometimes against his will, to piano practices in Beijing by his grandmother. Now, Yu said, he enjoys the piano more than the other instrument he chose to play in high school -- the clarinet.

"I don't think I've ever brought the clarinet home," he said.

Yu said he practices between two and five hours per day, depending on his homework flow. His practice time also depends on whether he will be performing at an event in upcoming weeks " which is not a rare happening for Yu. His most recent performance took place Sunday, Oct. 19, at Proctors, where he was the soloist in Piano Concerto in A Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

While Yu's talent has been familiar to teachers and administrators in the North Colonie Central School District since he came to the district in seventh grade, he gained even more fans when he performed for the Board of Education Monday, Sept. 22. The room was filled with applause and a standing ovation upon conclusion of Yu's performance.

District Music Supervisor Deborah Keough said this is not unusual after Yu's performances.

"He's exceptional," she said.

This year alone, Yu has won numerous honors for his musical excellence. Among those honors is the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, where 25 students across the country are chosen to perform on National Public Radio's "From the Top" music program. After performing in the program, some students are chosen to receive a $10,000 scholarship to go toward tuition to a musical program at a college or university or musical equipment and instruments.

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