University of Calgary

University piano prodigy John Chan wins Kiwanis Rose Bowl

UToday HomeMarch 22, 2013

By Heath McCoy

University of Calgary piano prodigy John Chan, who won the Kiwanis Music Festival Rose Bowl on March 16, has been studying music since the age of six. Photo courtesy of the Department of MusicUniversity of Calgary piano prodigy John Chan, who won the Kiwanis Music Festival Rose Bowl on March 16, has been studying music since the age of six. Photo courtesy of the Department of MusicFor a young music student, a Rose Bowl win at the Kiwanis Music Festival is probably the greatest honour one can achieve. Eighteen-year-old pianist John Chan, a first-year music student at the University of Calgary, was certainly thrilled with his victory at the March 16 competition.

But Professor Marilyn Engle, who’s taught Chan since he was a small boy, is quick to point out this milestone might only hint at the greatness that’s to come.

“The Kiwanis Music Festival is the biggest event of its kind in Canada,” says Engle. “It’s a special thing to win something like this that has a history going back generations. But, as well as he’s done, I think John is just beginning to flower.

“He’s got a huge potential.”

That’s something Chan has shown from early childhood, first studying piano at the age of six — not because his parents pushed him into a program but because he urged them to put him in one, so passionate was he about classical music.

“I would hear music in recordings and in live concerts and I said ‘I want to do that too,’” Chan says. “I was born with sensitivity and great imagination, but that has to be nurtured.”

Chan – who received a scholarship for $5,000 along with the title of most outstanding performer at the 2013 Kiwanis Music Festival – performed movements 2 and 3 of Concerto #1 in F minor by Rachmaninoff.

Engle describes Chan’s performance as “thrilling,” full of “passion, intensity and beauty.”

Chan admits that he is a passionate player. “Many performers feel nervous onstage, but that can be manipulated to one’s benefit,” he says. “You can use that nervousness as a source of extra energy.

“I think that’s what empowers me.”

The Rose Bowl was not the first of Chan’s Kiwanis wins. He’s been competing in the festival since he was a small child, “a first place winner every year,” Engle points out.

But, for the dedicated, serious-minded young musician – who’s already performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as a soloist – the Rose Bowl win is a crucial step.

“It’s a very important leap in one’s career,” he says. “A lot of Rose Bowl winners have gone on to great things.”

 

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