OGDEN, Utah – Given the success she experienced this spring, it's hard to believe that Weber State University piano student Fan-Ya Lin hasn't even started her sophomore year. Far from resting on her laurels, the 19-year-old from Taiwan plans to work even harder this coming semester.
As a freshman, Lin, whose first name is pronounced FUN-Yah, became the first WSU piano student to win the Utah Music Teachers Association State Concerto competition. In May, she followed that by taking third at the International Beethoven Sonata competition in Tennessee. Lin was the youngest semi-finalist at the event, where she faced graduate students and professionals who have studied at the Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music.
One week later, having only four days to prepare a completely different repertoire, Lin won the Snowy Range regional competition in Wyoming, the first WSU student to win that event.
It was quite the musical trifecta for Lin, who began playing piano around age four while growing up in the small Taiwanese town of Dan-Shui. She initially took lessons from her mother, who used to be a piano teacher. At age 13, she moved to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, and dreamed of attending Juilliard. Those dreams changed, however, when she auditioned at WSU.
"I felt something special here at Weber State," Lin said, who was first introduced to WSU by performing arts professor Yu-Jane Yang. The two met when Yang taught piano master classes at the Affiliated High School of National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, where Lin was a student.
At WSU, Lin found the students friendly and the faculty engaging. "Dr. [Ralph] van der Beek spent a lot of time answering my questions and helped me analyze the difference between Juilliard and WSU. And the lesson with Dr. Yang for my Chopin Ballade No. 4 Op. 52 in F minor was amazing. I felt there was so much to learn from her. This was the place for me."
Despite being admitted to Juilliard and the Oberlin Conservatory, Lin accepted a special four-year piano scholarship to attend WSU instead, where Yang became her principal teacher.
"Fan-Ya has a genuine love for learning, not just for music but other subjects as well," said Yang. "She is like a sponge that eagerly soaks in everything around her that she can learn."
"Fan-Ya has the rare combination of extreme talent and tremendous drive and work ethic," said van der Beek. "She practices all day long. Dr. Yang and I have never seen anyone quite like her in the years we've been teaching piano. You can tell her heart is attached to what she's doing."
Lin's love of music is conveyed through her performances, evoking emotional connections with her audiences; listeners have been moved to tears. Van der Beek reminded Lin of her showmanship to help ease a case of nerves at the start of the Snowy Range competition.
"He encouraged me to forget about the judges and let the audience feel the pure beauty through my music and simply be grateful for every opportunity to play on the stage," Lin said. "I was not nervous the day I competed. I loved the piano, the audience and the music."
"What really makes her special is her sincere desire to communicate her genuine love for music and the piano with the audience," said Yang. "She has the magical ability to draw people into her music and take them along on an incredible journey. The audience experiences wholeheartedly the beauty of whatever piece she is playing. Words cannot describe it."
Yang and van der Beek said that Lin is the kind of student who looks for competitions and then says to them, "I want to compete at this event." Lin is already focusing on her next major competition, the Music Teachers National Association piano competition, held in October.
Lin spent time this summer in Taiwan with her friends and family, interspersed by a trip to the United States to attend the Aspen Music Festival in June. The Aspen Festival led to another opportunity. Lin was invited to attend the prestigious Music@Menlo 2009 Festival in the San Francisco Bay area in late July. One of only two pianists nationwide to be invited to the festival, Lin will spend three weeks in intensive study and performing six different concerts.
The travel and the festival performance experience may be precursors for Lin, who aspires to become a globe-trotting performer.
"I want to be a concert pianist who performs in different countries and always inspires audiences, a concert pianist who fully expresses both the composer's idea and my stories," said Lin.
Local audiences can hear Lin perform when she holds a solo piano recital on Oct. 2 in the Val A. Browning Center Allred Theater.
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