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Piano Prodigy Wows Them In St. Paul

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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By Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) – A 12-year-old piano prodigy is getting a lot of attention at Franklin Music Magnet School in St. Paul not just for his skill, but also how quickly he learned the instrument.

Yue Phang received a keyboard for Christmas last year. Within weeks, he was playing at such a level that he attracted major attention.

Instructor Teresa Kelly says she has seen a wide range of talent in her 30 years of teaching, but only twice in her career has she seen students she considers gifted.

The first student ended up at Juilliard in New York. The second is Yue Phang.

“He is just amazing,” she said. “He’s using his hands in ways that I would consider to be mastery.”

What makes his talent even more impressive is it appeared out of nowhere. Before this semester started, Kelly says Yue was the quiet, shy kid who sat in the back of the class, never said a word and showed no interest in music.

Then one day he showed up to an afterschool keyboard class and started playing.

“I was amazed, and I asked him if he had lessons before. He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘How did you learn these songs?'”

That keyboard he was fiddling around with was a gift he received just three weeks earlier. He had never played before.

“At first when I learned to play a song it was really hard,” he said.

He had taught himself how to play by listening to Japanese music on the Internet, playing by ear. By the time he came to Kelly’s class he knew about 20 songs.

“I was astonished,” said Kelly.

Yue is the only student in class who plays without a sheet of music, and he continues to progress rapidly. Kelly said he is working on things with him most students wouldn’t tackle for at least six years.

“When I introduce to him new things, virtually overnight he’s able to come back and play what I’ve asked him to do,” she said. “I can’t get him to stop playing, Every time there’s a keyboard he goes over and starts whipping out songs.”

Yue is now getting private piano lessons from his teacher to go along with his keyboard class.

Kelly says Yue has the talent to end up at Juilliard like her previous gifted student, and Yue himself seems to have already made up his mind. When asked if he’ll keep up his work on the piano, he replied, “For the rest of my life.”

This is his first year at Franklin Music Magnet School, and he ended up there by chance. He had to switch schools because the busing changed.

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