Youngest Van Cliburn Competitor Plays With Powerful Emotion

One of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world is underway at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.

The quarterfinal round of the Van Cliburn International wrapped up Tuesday. The competition is designed to launch the career of a young concert pianist, and NBC 5 sat down with the youngest of the bunch.

Tony Yike Yang, 18, says music is "something that's intangible."

"It tests your human soul's entire range of emotion," he said.

For this test, the stakes are high.

"I'd say [it's] probably the most difficult competition in the world," Yang said.

So much has led to his moment on the stage – years of practice and sacrifice. Yang's family immigrated to Canada from China when he was a little boy.

"A lot of hardships along the way, a lot of financial hardships," Yang said.

On stage, he can use it all. From a bench in Bass Hall, music takes Yang to the depths of hell.

"Inside my body burns, there's this kind of energy," he said.

Or to heavenly heights.

"Angels, fairy tales, something like that," Yang said. "You have to feel it yourself before your audience has a chance of feeling it."

He's hoping the jury feels it, too. They'll decide who moves to the next round, ultimately launching a young pianists' career.

The competitors come from all over the world, making Fort Worth their cultural mecca.

"I cannot imagine the Cliburn happening anywhere else in the world," Yang said.

And for these two weeks the music, and all the dreams it brings, are ours to share.

"I'm super blessed to have this talent to play the piano and reach where I am today," Yang said.

The 12 semi-finalists advancing to the next round will be named late Tuesday night.

If Yang somehow doesn't move forward, he has a pretty good fallback plan. He started his freshman year at Harvard University last fall and plans to major in economics or government.

Contact Us