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4-Year-Old Piano Prodigy Wins Prestigious Music Competition

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO PLAYING)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At some point over the last 18 months, each of us has probably thought about taking up some new pastime. Some of us have even followed through, a gesture at self-improvement or just a way not to go stir-crazy in COVID times. Some of us have even taken up a musical instrument, perhaps the piano.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO PLAYING)

MARTIN: Last fall, Brigitte Xie took up the piano. A year later, she became the youngest winner of the prestigious Elite International Music Competition, which grants the winner a performance on stage at Carnegie Hall. She is only 4 years old.

FELICIA FENG ZHANG: Brigitte came to me when she was just 2 months after 3 years old.

MARTIN: That's Brigitte's piano teacher, Felicia Feng Zhang.

ZHANG: From the lessons, I observed she has a curious mind, and she loved to learn.

MARTIN: Brigitte's father, Tao Zie, signed her up for Zoom classes - you know, something to do during lockdown.

TAO ZIE: At the beginning, I never expected she's going to be a prodigy or anything.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO PLAYING)

NICOLE SUN: The first time I heard she - playing a piano piece, I was so deeply moved.

MARTIN: That's Brigitte's mother, Nicole Sun. She also plays piano. Brigitte's parents have to place a stool under the piano bench to keep her feet from dangling above the ground. Her sheet music towers above her head. Her teacher says she is still amazed how quickly Brigitte learned.

ZHANG: I said, now, can you play right-hand D major, left-hand C major, right-hand G major? Then she went - boom, boom, boom, boom, boom - make all the different, right moves. That's very - for that, 3 years old, it's really amazing.

MARTIN: Here's her teacher on a talk show explaining why she thinks Brigitte is able to progress so quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZHANG: She read the music, and the music is a language.

MARTIN: But music isn't just any language.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZHANG: It's beyond the speaking language because I have to use 10 fingers...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Of course.

ZHANG: ...To interpret what you see and what you feel.

MARTIN: Brigitte's other hobbies include playing with toys and reading books.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO PLAYING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.