28 Apr, 2023
12 : 17
We are delighted to share with our community the outstanding piano achievements of our Year 4 Primary student, Shaun Ren. At the age of seven, he passed the highest level of the ABRSM exam with distinction as well as the Chinese Music Association piano test. This year alone, young pianist Shaun has received more than a dozen accolades, earning many first-place standings and gold medals in national and international piano competitions.
For the myriad of benefits it brings, our school highly promotes learning an instrument and musical education. Our Primary school violin programme and music lessons are core components of the YCIS Beijing curriculum. We are proud of our young pianist, Shaun, whose favourite piece is Mozart‘s Piano Sonata in D major in three movements. We were eager to interview those that know him best to learn more of his musical journey.
We interviewed Shaun’s mother, Annie Wang, who openly shared about Shaun’s fascinating experiences, the challenges of mastering an instrument, the importance of a strong belief and support system, and the combination of talent and hard work. We also spoke to Shaun’s homeroom teacher, Ms Shinaaz Goncalves, and his violin teacher, Ms Chi Wang, on how and why musicianship skills positively impact academics and a student’s mindset.
Annie, please describe Shaun and his interests.
"From a very young age, Shaun or as we call him ‘Little Bear’, has shown great artistic talent; for example, without any training, he could dance rhythmically to a melody based on his sense of music or easily hum a tune he has only heard once. He started taking formal piano lessons when he was about six years old. He normally practices two hours a day and at least five hours a day in preparation for exams or recitals.
Shaun also has a keen interest in science and technology, often asking questions about a subject and digging for answers. He has a special interest in fencing and handball and has devoted much time to practising. In terms of languages, he is particularly fond of French and can now speak it easily. He also has a keen interest in mathematical competitions and programming."
Why did you choose YCIS Beijing for Shaun?
"Shaun entered YCIS in Year 2. We visited quite a few schools at that time and agreed with the philosophy conveyed by YCIS Beijing. For example, the five Dimensions of Learning (perseverance, collaboration, critical thinking, innovation, and self-regulation) were very much in line with our views on our child's education. We also attach great importance to the Chinese language teaching at YCIS Beijing. We are happy that in an international school setting, our child can still learn the Chinese language and culture to ensure that he can still identify with our cultural background. We feel that the overall design and level of Chinese language learning at YCIS compares to that of public schools in China."
How does our school support Shaun in his musical achievements?
"The school has provided an excellent platform for Shaun to perform in every concert, allowing him to hone his courage and build his confidence in showcasing himself at numerous occasions. Through communication with the school's music director, Mr Gordon Robb, Shaun will have his first solo concert in the auditorium. Shaun hopes to organise an annual benefit concert with the school to help and influence more children. This makes our family very proud, and we are very grateful to the school for giving Shaun these opportunities."
What are the educational benefits of Shaun’s musical development?
“Piano practice requires a lot of time and concentration which has formed his personality into being persistent yet very calm. Through learning the piano, it has been easy for Shaun to keep up with the varied school subjects as well. In addition, the piano is a musical instrument in which the right and left hands, and the left and right brain, need to work in tandem, which is very helpful in developing a child's mind and memory.”
Violin teacher, Ms Chi Wang, on Shaun:
As Shaun already has a strong foundation in piano, his ability to develop in learning the violin is faster compared to students without musical experience, especially in the aspect of listening. He can adeptly distinguish the intonation, and he quickly masters different areas of learning the violin. Just like his peers, Shaun had his first violin lesson at YCIS at a very young age, enabling him to learn the basics of the musical instrument as well as develop perseverance, patience and coordination which are all skills that cross over to all other subject areas. It is a pleasure to have Shaun perform in our school’s regular violin and music concerts. The piano and violin, while different, share the same music theory and in general complement each other, allowing Shaun to display his musical talents in various ways such as solos and ensembles.
How does Shaun deal with challenges?
“When Shaun encounters difficulties, just like anyone, he can become angry or frustrated but not once has he said that he wanted to give up. He will often remind himself, “I want to become my best self, so I’ll keep going.” This determination has given him the resilience and courage to confront his weaknesses, remain strong when challenged, and keep persevering to achieve his dreams. After only three years of study, he is now in the ABRSM performance level assessment and has a clear plan for his future endeavours. Although Shaun doesn't necessarily have to become a future pianist, he can influence many people through the piano and music.”
Which is Shaun’s favourite subject?
“He enjoys many subjects such as Chinese, English, Mathematics, and most of all Science. He has a gazillion questions, is curious about all kinds of unknown things and enjoys the process of answering them. He has recently been selected to join the Mathematics Club and is interested in taking part in mathematics competitions which he has never been involved in before, but he recently did very well in the Primary Math Challenge (PMC) offered at our school.”
What does Shaun enjoy most about being a student at YCIS?
“Shaun loves going to school. He feels comfortable and finds it exciting and fun. He is surrounded by friendly teachers and students, and he enjoys spending time with everyone every day.”
International homeroom teacher, Ms Shinaaz Goncalves, on Shaun:
Shaun is a delight to have in our class. He is polite and friendly and has proven to be a thoughtful and good friend to his peers. He is constantly engaging in lessons and strives to do his best in all subjects. He is very diligent and focused on his academics. He is respectful towards his peers and teachers. He often offers to help his peers, whether it be with academics or just in general, like assisting a friend when they're not feeling well. Shaun really thrives in Mathematics, and it is clear that he has a keen interest in this subject. Overall, he sets himself clear goals in all subjects and works hard to reach those goals. Shaun is able to use his musical skills in other subjects. For example, during our unit on the impact of materials, students created a song about recycling. It is also quite useful for English Literacy when writing poetry. And of course, Shaun is also able to showcase his skills during the specialist lessons, such as music.
How do you motivate your child? Where does his motivation come from?
“We affirm Shaun’s every achievement, no matter how big or small. He has our support in every choice and decision he makes. As parents, we remind him that nothing is achieved overnight, and that it has taken much hard work to get where he is, and that all these efforts in between will not be in vain but will be steppingstones on the road to success.”
We are very proud to have Shaun and his family as part of our school community. His musical achievements are an ode to his determination and hard work. We trust that Shaun will feel rewarded by the delight of making music, enjoyed by both himself and his audience. We wish Shaun success and joy in all his future endeavours, whether academic or musical in nature.
If Shaun’s story has inspired you and you would like to ignite a spark for learning an instrument in your child,read on here next time abouthow YCIS Beijing supports music-making throughourPrimaryviolin coursesandour In-School Individual Instrumental PIIIP programme(IIIP).