School News

Practice makes perfect for eighth grader John Xu
Posted 05/12/2014 12:00AM

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

"Practice."

It's an old joke, but the wry figurative meaning is true. Just ask two Fenn students.

Eighth grader and violinist Austin Kwoun made his debut at Carnegie Hall in April, and on June 8 his classmate, John Xu, will play the piano in Weill Hall there at the American Fine Arts Festival Student Recital. Both have performed in front of the school community several times and played at the May 2 dedication of Ward Hall.
John, who began studying the piano at eight years old, will play the exuberant third (and final) movement of Prokofiev's Sonata No. 4, a challenging piece that he has been preparing for months. He will also compete at the May 11 Bay State Contest held by the Massachusetts Music Teachers Association, and on June 14 in Westborough he will perform the Concerto No. 1 in C major by Haydn, this time on the cello. John loves that instrument equally and is a member of the New England Conservatory Youth Repertory Orchestra.

He practices an hour and a half a day, at least, and "more on weekends." When asked if he ever tires of training, he shakes his head. "When I'm unhappy, it makes me happy, and when I'm happy, it makes me happier." Though practice was toilsome when he was younger, John says it "feels good" now, explaining that his shift in attitude came with growing up. "Back then, I was just playing the notes," he says. "Then I began really feeling the music."

John loves classical music—among the composers he regards as icons are Beethoven, Mozart, and Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, who is considered to be one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century. But he also enjoys listening to pop music, "as long as it's a good song." When he's not playing the piano or cello, John unwinds by shooting baskets, but he doesn't have much interest in television or video games. At Fenn he has played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and math is "definitely" his favorite subject, he says.

Music trumps all of those interests. A member of the Fenn Concert Band, Marching Band, and Fenn String Ensemble, John played the cello in the Jazz Band in sixth grade. He can also play the bass drum and toms, and he marched in the Patriots' Day parade this year playing the crash cymbals. This spring John made 11th cello in the Eastern District Honor Orchestra.

"Johnny is an extraordinary musician with highly developed skills," says Fenn Instrumental Music Director Maeve Lien. "He is always willing to give of his time and talents to the Fenn program," she adds, "and take on new challenges and styles of music."

John is headed to Deerfield Academy in September where he plans to continue pursuing his musical passions.

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