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New Scarsdale High Class Spotlights Top Pianists

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Three Scarsdale High School pianists got a chance to strut their stuff Thursday night in the first-ever piano class recital at the school.

Sophomore Boeun Choi and seniors Kyoko Hirota and Kentaro Nakajima took turns at the grand piano in the Music Tower. Kyoko opened and closed the evening, starting with Ravel's "Jeux d'Eaux" and ending with Prokofiev's "Sonata No. 2 in d minor, Op. 15, Mvt. 4." In between, she performed "Ballade No. 2" by Liszt.

A native of Japan, Kyoto has studied piano since she was 6.  In 2006 she was chosen by Sony Music Foundation and played a master class for Ivo Pogorelich, the first of many such honors. She moved to the United States in 2009 and has studied with several teachers and has performed at Carnegie Hall. She intends to pursue a musical career and would like to be a concert pianist.

The youngest of the trio, Boeun performed Chopin's "Etude, Op. 10, No. 5" and "River Flows in You" by Yiruma. The South Korean native began lessons at age 7 and attended three competitions in 2004 and 2005, but stopped playing for a few years when she came to the U.S. in 2008. She did not play seriously again until joining the new piano class at Scarsdale High.

Kentaro, the only male member of the class, was born in Toronto, moved to Japan and returned to the states when he was 16. After playing piano since age 5, he stopped when he was 11 and began singing in a school chorus. He began playing again when he moved to New York and has studied at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School. Thursday night, he performed Chopin's "Fantasie-Impromptu c# minor Op. 66."

The class, the first of its kind in Scarsdale, is the brainchild of music teacher John Cuk, himself a pianist.

Cuk said the idea was to create a performance class for advanced pianists who must audition to get into the group. "I thought about this a year and a half ago," he said. "I knew Kyoto because she's in chorus, but I knew there were a couple other pianists floating around here who tried some of the other groups, but it wasn't really right for them.”

Cuk said the class is low on stress and is not traditional.

"Kids come in, and they'll coach with me. I don't teach them – I try to inspire them," Cuk said. "We may talk about practice techniques, we'll play for each other. We have YouTube, so we actually go in and listen to past performances of all the pieces that they're playing and talk about them and compare them."

Cuk said the class is aimed at providing the pianists the opportunity to perform in public.

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