Proms debut holds no fear for the 'Little Mozart'

A nine-year-old prodigy puts his success down to practice... and his mother. By Sarah Cassidy

He has been nicknamed Little Mozart and, at nine years old, has only recently grown tall enough to reach the foot pedals of a grand piano.

On Sunday, Marc Yu, from Los Angeles, will make his debut at the Royal Albert Hall as one of the youngest-ever performers to play at the 114-year-old Proms.

"Of course I'm not nervous," said Marc, with a confidence beyond his years. "The bigger the audience, the better I play. I will feel nervous if I'm not well prepared but that's not usual. It's exciting and exhilarating to be on stage. When I go on the stage there's nothing more exciting than feeling that yourself, the orchestra and the audience are in total harmony."

Marc practises the piano for up to eight hours a day, but says he still has time to play in the park with his friends. He dismisses the idea that his practice schedule is overly demanding. "I like ping-pong, telling jokes, swimming and playing with my friends. Because I am home-schooled I have more time to play when I am at home because I do not have to go to school – unlike other children who are confined in school for seven hours a day. That's a lot of work for them."

Marc made his concert debut, on the piano and the cello, at six – the same age as Mozart when he gave his first performance in 1762.

At the Proms, Marc will perform a duet, Schubert's Fantasia in F Minor, with the flamboyant Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who played at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. "Lang Lang has always been my idol," said Marc. "He is perfect musically and also perfect at getting the audience into the music."

Marc began playing the piano at a friend's birthday party in Los Angeles when he was two. As children sang "Mary Had a Little Lamb", he toddled over to the piano and started tapping out the tune with two fingers. This astonished his Chinese-born mother, Chloe, because it was the first time Marc had ever been near a piano.

Six months later, he gave his first public recital, playing Beethoven. When he was three, Marc realised he was thinking about music more than anyone else his age. Because he could concentrate and hear the logic behind the music, he excelled and quickly won national piano prizes after two years of lessons.

An only child, he credits his 34-year-old mother for nurturing his talent because she played Beethoven CDs to him when he was in the womb and now acts as his tutor, manager and travelling companion. "If I have a gift from God, it is my mom who is my angel," he said.

"I try not to think about what a huge responsibility it is," said Mrs Yu. "I never expected when I was pregnant with Marc that he would be a prodigy. I played music to him before he was born just because I hoped it would help him develop a love of music.

"I am no expert but I believe that it is more nurture than nature so children should not be discouraged because they are not born with an obvious talent. It is not easy to become a virtuoso – it takes a lot of work and dedication." "And sacrifice," interrupts her son cheerfully.

Marc is educated at home by his mother and a tutor to give him the flexibility to travel and perform, while allowing him to learn at his own pace. Mrs Yu said: "What other children learn in eight hours a day he can squeeze into 30 minutes or an hour. This way, he can learn whatever he is interested in at that moment."

Marc studies music composition at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and flies to China for lessons at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Marc said: "I like playing music because it has a lot of different feelings – expressive, sad, excited and happy. Music is just full of emotions – that's what I love about it. I like playing difficult pieces, especially those that my teacher says no to. Practice really does make perfect."

Marc's performance is at 4pm tomorrow. The concert is sold out but will be live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC4 at 7.30pm.

Other child geniuses from the world of music

Yehudi Menuhin

The American-born violinist, who died in 1999 at 82, was a child prodigy who went on to become one of the 20th century's finest musicians. He debuted in San Francisco at the age of seven and, by 13, had performed in London, Paris and Berlin. Albert Einstein said after hearing him: "Now I know there is a God in heaven."

Jacqueline du Pré

The English cellist who died of multiple sclerosis in 1987 at the age of 42, is one of the greatest-ever players of the instrument. Aged four, du Pré is said to have heard a cello on the radio and asked her mother for "one of those". She had lessons from her mother before studying at the London Violoncello School from the age of five.

Daniel Barenboim

The Israeli pianist and conductor started piano lessons at five with his mother, continuing to study with his father Enrique, who remained his only teacher. In 1950, when he was seven, he gave his first formal concert in Buenos Aires.

Lang Lang

The flamboyant pianist, 26, is treated like a rock star in his native China. He began having lessons at the age of three and just two years later won the Shenyang Piano Competition.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen