Nov. 23, 2009
Christian Nguyen says he loves to learn music composition because he gets to push himself hard.
With the latest thrust, the 13-year-old boy from Gilbert has propelled himself to a stage in Japan.
On Saturday, Christian played his winning composition, “Dragon Keeper,” on the piano at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Shibuya, Japan.
He was accompanied by Phoenix Symphony
member Michael D’Avanzo on the cello and Arizona State University music professor J.B. Smith on the marimba.
His parents Andy Nguyen and Vienchi Tran and 3-year-old sister Courtney were to be among the audience, as well as Heidi Grimes, one of his teachers at East Valley
Yamaha Music School in Chandler.
Christian was picked to be one of 13 performers at the 38th International Junior Original Concert when his composition was chosen from among 35,000 entries from Yamaha Music Schools in 41 countries.
“I was so stunned, I didn’t even, like, feel anything. As November came close, I became more and more excited and happy,” said Christian, on the eve of his trip
“It’s really a big honor and accomplishment for him,” said his father, Andy Nguyen, a programmer analyst for Phoenix who plays guitar for a Vietnamese band called “The White Summer.”
For “Dragon Keeper,” Christian received inspiration from a book by the same name. The ensemble piece features a reckless young dragon.
“As I developed the piece, though, I started my own take on the storyline. I imagined the character of my dragon as a young, naive and reckless dragon in comparison to the wise old dragon in the original book,” he said.
In the middle part of the piece, the dragon is lost and lonely. Afterward, he flies home, but is attacked and falls into a river.
“It’s a very energetic piece, with lots of rhythm,” Grimes said. “The middle is very emotional, almost romantic. It’s not what you’ll expect from a young boy – it’s tender, sensitive and has a very mature melody.”
Grimes has taught music to Christian since he was 5 years old. Currently, he studies repertoire, technique, improvisation and composition with several teachers.
Grimes said “It’s a joy to work with him. He’s very creative and very bright.”
At home, Christian also takes private lessons in piano and composition. He also plays guitar and drums. At Tempe’s Gethsemane Lutheran School, where he studies, he also plays softball, soccer and basketball, does cross-country running and track and field. He enjoys video games and online social networking.
How does he find the time to do everything?
“It’s pretty complicated,” explained Christian. “I really don’t know.”