Date: July 03 2012
AS A record-breaking child pianist who practised up to 12 hours a day, Joanne Kang knew all about being hungry for success.
Entered in competitions soon after taking up piano at five years old, ''I wanted to achieve younger and better than everybody else,'' she said. ''It was that sort of mindset.''
Now 21, the pianist from Constitution Hill, near Westmead, is about to compete against some of the world's finest young pianists in Sydney in a contest she sees as similar to piano's version of the Australian Open of tennis.
But at one stage she seemed determined to leave playing behind.
Kang attended Pymble Ladies College on a music scholarship and, at 14, became the youngest recipient of a Fellowship of Music Australia diploma. She performed at Sydney Town Hall, the Sydney Korean Festival and the Joan Sutherland Society, among others. Every year brought more eisteddfods or other contests.
But by 16, Kang was burnt out. ''I felt I had nothing in me to show any more,'' she said. She quit piano altogether and, amid family issues, left school and moved out of home. Everyone was shocked. ''That was one way of my rebelling.''
She took up jobs such as selling pay TV door to door and working in a used-car yard. She spent several years in the musical wilderness.
Then she gradually began playing again, just for enjoyment. ''I couldn't get my hands off the piano whenever I was near one,'' she said. ''I realised I still had it.''
Returning to competition in 2009, Kang won a scholarship and has just finished her first year at a prestigious music school in New York.
The pianist is one of seven Australian finalists at the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia, opening tomorrow.
Held every four years, the contest's 36 finalists aged 17 to 31 will vie for about $150,000 in cash prizes. It runs for nearly three weeks at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, and then Sydney Opera House. Winners are announced on July 21.
Auditions to make the finals have been held in 11 cities including London, Moscow, Singapore, New York and Sydney. The contest will be broadcast live on ABC radio and the internet.
Kang is richer for her break from music. ''In retrospect, I think I got what I needed,'' she said. ''I realised just how much I loved the piano, and how I'm able to play and enter my own stories through my music.''
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