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Cary Wang of New Canaan has won competitions and played in prestigious concert halls — including Carnegie Hall a dozen times. Photo Credit: Ariel Ling
Cary Wang performs Mozart's Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467, 3rd movement, which won him the only First Prize in the 10-to-14 age group at the Manhattan School of Music Annual Concerto Competition.
Cary Wang performs Mozart's Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467, 3rd movement, which won him the only First Prize in the 10-to-14 age group at the Manhattan School of Music Annual Concerto Competition. Video Credit: Ariel Ling

11-Year-Old Classical Pianist From Fairfield County Says Music Takes Him To 'Different World'

Beethoven. Chopin. Haydn. Mozart.  Eleven-year-old Fairfield County pianist Cary Wang of New Canaan has a musical repertoire so long that when you get to the end, you've forgotten where you started. 

Cary made his piano debut at the age of six with Claude Debussy's Le Petit Nègre at Carnegie Hall in December 2015 and hasn't looked back.  He's gone on to win first prize in national and international piano competitions, and, in December 2018, he won a competitive Manhattan School of Music Annual Concerto Competition — the youngest performer in the 10-to-13-year-old age group — with his performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467, 3rd Movement.

Cary remembered being "a little nervous" his first time playing Carnegie Hall, but the feeling quickly vanished.

"As soon as I bowed, I felt like the stage was mine and I gained my confidence. So I was able to focus and perform my piece well," he said   

Since that first time, Cary has become more excited and comfortable playing the famous stage.

A local performance peak for Cary was winning first prize in 2018's Darien's Got Talent show in the 8-to-18 age category. He wowed with  Chopin’s Valse Brillante, Op. 34, No.3.at the televised Connecticut talent competition.

"Sharing the joy of music with everyone..."

Cary began lessons with Felicia Zhang of Greenwich*** and currently studies under Jeffrey Cohen at Precollege Division of Manhattan School of Music.

Outside of concert stages and competitions, Cary routinely plays piano — either solo or part of an ensemble — at senior centers and schools in Fairfield County. He also plays cello with the Norwalk Youth Orchestra.

When he's not making music, he enjoys football, sailing, chess, golf and tennis. Cary excels academically and science is the youngster's favorite school subject because it allows him to look beyond his imagination.

Unlike his fellow 5th graders who may be playing sports, video games, or sleeping in, Saturdays find Cary at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege. 

"All the students and professors are really nice, always helping me in every way they can such as musicianship training, chamber music, and chorus practice," he said.

When he grows up, Cary expects to continue playing piano for enjoyment and "sharing the joy of music with everyone."

"It soothes me and lets me express my emotions while playing it."

The most difficult part of for the young pianist is memorizing a piece. 

"In doing so, I have to analyze every part to make sure it is correct," said Wang. "Then I need to polish my performance, which is my favorite part of practice.  I can apply my own feelings and play the music with more emotion and dynamics."

Looking at his repertoire it is no surprise that classical is his favorite type of music.

"It soothes me and lets me express my emotions while playing it," Wang said. 

Cary's  mother, Ariel Ling, described her son as a "well-rounded and driven boy with deep passion for learning, challenge and excellence across academics, music and sports."

Ling believes the years of music lessons and daily practice, even on holidays, have "been instrumental to Cary’s development of his learning capacity for abstract concepts like music theory, his creativity through composition and his inner personal strength from focus, to diligence."

She credits his first piano teacher Felicia Zhang with laying down a solid foundation in terms of reading music and proper practice routine and to further building out those core learning skills and personality development. According to Ling, Zhang inspired and helped Cary share his joy of music in his performances.

The fifth-grader has performed Wolfgang A. Mozart's 3rd Movement at Vienna's Ehrbar Hall, played at Carnegie Hall 12 times and has also played stages at Lincoln Center, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Mozarthaus in Vienna and London's Royal Albert Hall.

Playing piano takes Wang to a "different world, mentally and physically," he said. "The music's mood and melody bring me to a different setting with a different story. It takes me to a different world physically because when I win a specific competition, I get invited to perform somewhere outside home, like London, or Mozart’s house, Vienna or France."

Ling added that traveling with Cary to London and Vienna has provided "fun and eye-opening experiences — from finding unique places for his daily piano practice to performing in those renowned concert halls that inspired so many musicians and artists."

The overall experience with the countless public performances has helped her son in many ways. 

"Cary has definitely learned how to manage pressures with grace," said Ling of her son. "He always plays with a rare combination of grace, focus, energy and maturity beyond his young age, which was the consistent feedback from judges and teachers."