From national competitions to a full-time career: Pianist Wang Huang Hao Jia and his unending perseverance
Participating in several competitions since 2011, the now 23-year-old is reaching a new high as a featured soloist in Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming concert on Sep 23.
Today, pianist and master’s student Wang Huang Hao Jia gives group and private lessons to non-piano majors at Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University. All this, while he prepares for his biggest showing thus far as Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO)’s 2023 President’s Young Performer.
But how this 23-year-old Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST) graduate found his footing is no small feat; Hao Jia was introduced to the piano at the age of five, enrolling in the NAFA School of Young Talents Gifted Young Pianists Course.
“I was just gifted a second-hand piano and my parents thought learning the piano could develop my brains,” he says.
“None of my family members were musicians, but I did enjoy playing the piano when I was young.”
Later on at 11 years old, Hao Jia recalls participating in the biennial National Piano and Violin Competition (NPVC), Singapore’s longest running and most prestigious music competition, where he failed to pass the first round.
“I remember feeling disappointed, but my mom encouraged me to learn about the problems I faced with my playing and solve them. It was easier said than done,” he recounts.
With the support of his parents and his then-piano teacher Fang Yuan, Hao Jia tried again two years later but still ended up at the same place he was previously. Feeling more disappointed than before, Hao Jia knew it was a clear indication that his playing “was bad”.
“My parents and teacher remained extremely patient nonetheless and kept me going as I became surer about my passion as I grew older.”
Not giving up, the young pianist said he researched world renowned musicians and put more hours into understanding the music.
Eventually, all efforts paid off in 2015, when the then 15-year-old won not just one but two competitions – the Young Talents Project by radio station Symphony 92.4 and NVPC (Intermediate Category).
For the former that he won, Hao Jia remembers being able to travel to Vienna for masterclasses.
As to the latter win, he says: “It was an important milestone and affirmed that I was on the right track. It served as a great encouragement for me to continue this endless musical journey.”
The victories didn’t stop there; Hao Jia then went on to win the Grand Prize of the Steinway Youth Piano Competition in 2016 and the 1st prize in NVPC (Senior Category) in 2019.
In retrospect, Hao Jia attributes his success to his former teachers Fang Yuan and Professor Albert Tiu. He shares that he is thankful for their unwavering support and guidance, how they helped to shape his love for music, and inspire him in this endless musical journey.
Most recently, Hao Jia entered the YST Concerto Competition, playing popular work Piano Concerto No. 3 by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Though he did not win, the young pianist brought out the same work for SSO’s open audition for its 2023 President’s Young Performers Concert, which he ended up shortlisting for.
He says: “Though I did not win the YST Concerto Competition, I was pleased with the effort I have put in from my practice, from memorising to playing through this mammoth of a concerto.
“I am looking to deepen my understanding and interpretation of this work with SSO, and I will definitely do my best in bringing this masterpiece to life.”
Hao Jia’s goal to pursue a full-time music career, he says, derives from a passion to understand and practice music.
“As I grew older and learnt more about music, I found out how profound music can be and how much satisfaction it can give when it is created thoughtfully,” he says.
“Throughout the years, I have received many criticisms and commendations about my playing. Keeping an open mind has helped me, and knowing that there is no one correct answer, and that there is always room for improvement.”
To aspiring young musicians, Hao Jia emphasises on not giving up.
“It is the journey that matters. Let your passion for music guide you on your journey,” he says.
The President’s Young Performers Concert, in which Hao Jia will be performing alongside the SSO, will take place at the Victoria Concert Hall on Sep 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets, ranging from $15 to $48, are now available for online purchase.