Nova Scotia

Young Halifax pianist wins big at National Music Festival

13-year-old Alex Yang from Halifax was chosen as the Grand Award winner by an internationally acclaimed panel of adjudicators at the festival, which was hosted virtually by the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals (FCMF).

13-year-old Alex Yang says music is his way of expressing himself

Alex Yang of Halifax received a $5,000 cash prize for his performance at the National Music Festival. (Submitted by Michael Yang)

A young Nova Scotian pianist received a prestigious honour earlier this month at the 2022 National Music Festival.

Alex Yang, 13, from Halifax was chosen as the grand award winner by an internationally acclaimed panel of adjudicators at the festival, which was hosted virtually by the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals.

Yang opened his performance at the festival with Bach's English Suite No. 2 in A-minor, one part of a group of six that make up "one giant work," he said in an interview on CBC's Information Morning.

"I especially like that one to start the performance just because it's very lively — it's very energetic," he said. "It just feels good as well for a concert starter." 

Listen to Yang's full interview with CBC's Information Morning here:

Yang said he thinks of music as way to express himself and get creative.

"There's so many ways you can interpret a piece of music," he said. "Of course the notes are very important — getting all the notes to make it sound good — but if there's no personal approach to it, the music just sounds very bland."

He said he likes to experiment to make each piece feel like his "own personal creation," practicing every day until he feels comfortable with a piece before moving on to the next.

'You can't always teach it'

Yang's piano teacher, Lynn Stodola, said Yang is a very gifted young man.

"Perhaps the most significant of his gifts is just the innate creative mind that supports his technical fluency," Stodola said, touting Yang's technical precision, too. "But along with that is something that, in some ways, you can inspire it but you can't always teach it."

That something is a "genuine creative sense" that comes from the heart, she said.

Yang said he treats festivals and competitions as learning experiences in his development as a musician.

Yang says he is considering pursuing a professional career in music. (Submitted by Michael Yang)

He listens to various composers, like Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Liszt in his free time. He said pop music is a pretty good change of pace, but he prefers to listen to classical.

"The music itself, there's a type of essence in it that like just attracts me into it," he said. "There's so much to discover about it — it's [the] point of origin for all modern music."

Yang said he likes to play badminton, tennis, and basketball in his spare time. He also plays the violin.

He said he's working up to competing in international music festivals and is considering becoming a professional musician.

With files from CBC's Information Morning