News From Terre Haute, Indiana


January 3, 2008

The Piano Prodigy

13-year-old Plainfield, Ind., student advancing in the world of classical music

PLAINFIELD, Ind. — Yihan Chen isn’t unlike many of his eighth-grade peers at Plainfield Community Middle School.

He loves football (particularly the Indianapolis Colts, of course). His proximity to Speedway enables his passion for car racing. Before moving here from Lebanon, it was common to see Chen covered in mud while gleefully hot-dogging on an ATV.

But when it comes to music, the similarities end.

Chen is a gifted classical pianist; what one would normally call a prodigy. He’s only been playing five years.

“There was a keyboard at my father’s house,” Chen said. “He wanted me to learn how to play, so that’s what I started with.”

He knew from the outset he had a gift.

“I learned pretty quickly,” Chen said.

Quickly enough that one year after starting he was composing his own music. He now has more than 80 original works to his credit.

As popular as classical music is in Chen’s native China, he soon exhausted his options to learn the form there. After hearing about the repute of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, he came to the United States to live with his mother and stepfather, Lingma and Doug Acheson.

Chen now studies with professors there who normally only work with advanced graduate students — not junior-high schoolers in braces.

“It’s a good indication he’s got something,” Doug said.

Chen has an inkling of that from the many awards he’s already won. Last month he took first in the Young Artist Competition through the Carmel Symphony Orchestra. Among the others were wins in the middle school division of the Young Composer’s Contest at the University of Indianapolis and the junior division of the Young Artist Competition at the New World Youth Orchestras.

He’s also received positive signals from his select public performances thus far, in settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, and private parties.

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    March 12, 2010