In 2021, Nikki Jian won the Albury Chamber Music Festival prize.
This year, the 13-year-old pianist returns to the festival to present her interpretation of three significant works: Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27, No. 2; Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata; and a piano arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.
Nikki — who has already achieved her AMusA in piano, received a special award from the Polish Educational Society in Victoria, and scored several honourable mentions as a solo competitor in the Boroondara Eisteddfod — chats with CutCommon ahead of her festival appearance.
Nikki, congratulations on receiving the Albury Chamber Music Festival Prize — it’s all coming together in a big performance this November! How are you feeling as you prepare for the event?
Thank you, I am very grateful for this amazing opportunity that I have been given. I am a little nervous performing on a huge stage, especially after not being able to perform for over two years due to Covid. Though, I am still really excited to get to perform at such a high-level event, and to meet many new people.
You have three works on the program — a Chopin, a Beethoven, and a Rachmaninov. It must take an extraordinary amount of practice to prepare for such a substantial solo event. How have you been balancing this with your other commitments, such as schoolwork, music lessons, and life in general?
I have been dancing since the age of 3, and still am dancing in a troupe and lessons. I have also been learning the cello for just over 3 years. Sometimes, it does get quite difficult to balance schoolwork and other activities along with practising enough piano every day. However, I do manage to fit most of these things in every day, and find enough time to fit as much as I can in.
I am also finding time management and organisation becoming more and more important as I am getting more busy and getting older.
So which piece are you most looking forward to playing in the festival?
This repertoire is quite new and very challenging, with all these pieces carefully selected by myself with the help from my teacher, considering the balance of variety of styles, what I love to express myself with, and what I would like to share with the audience.
I do love all my pieces. However, Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata is such a spectacular piece, especially the third movement. Playing this movement gives so much thrill and excitement, and finishes with such a powerful ending.
Nikki, we can’t ignore the fact that you are one of the younger people in this festival, by a long shot. How do you feel about the idea of being a “young musician”? You’re of an age that many would consider “child prodigy”, and I’d like to know what you think about this idea.
I believe that when playing any instrument or music, it is about the passion and love that is important for what you are doing. Even though I may be considered a child prodigy to some, the important thing that I hope people recognise me for is how passionate I am when playing the piano, or how I love what I’m doing, which is all that matters — or what matters more than anything else.
I think that no one should look at someone who is younger, and automatically think that they played the best or they deserve it because they are younger. Sometimes, the youngest player may actually deserve the win or biggest applause — though just because the other musicians are older in age, they still deserve the same amount of applause. Age shouldn’t matter.
Thank you for sharing that Nikki. To follow on from this, I’d also like to ask you about something that is often discussed in the world of classical music: talent. There are so many debates about where talent comes from — if it’s natural to musicians who are born with it, or if it’s developed through hard work and practice. What do you think about these ideas and where talent comes from?
I believe that everyone is born with at least some sort of talent, they just need to find what they are best in or love to do the most. For me, I found my talent at the age of 4, and I persisted with playing piano to get to the best of my abilities and enjoy what I do.
Talent is a great thing to have, especially for musicians, though determination and persistence are also very important in succeeding. Everyone can do anything, as long as they are motivated and determined to do it. For music, practising is key. Talent isn’t the only thing that makes you succeed.
You’ve achieved so much already in your performance career, so where do you want to take it next?
Growing up, my dream has always been to become a pianist/musician and performer. I still would love to become a solo performer, and hope to proceed with some great opportunities overseas in the future.
Are there any other words you’d like to share with readers of Australia?
If you have something you want to do, go for it, and motivate yourself to try your best even though there may be ups and downs.
I believe that the hardest part about doing anything is starting it, and getting towards the point before you really realise you know what you’re doing and love doing it.
Nikki will perform in the Albury Chamber Music Festival’s Intermezzo — Performance 9, Protégé Series at 1pm November 6 in Adamshurst Ballroom.