The Keys to Academics


Chen wins the J.Y Park Piano Competition but still finds time for domination in  classroom

Picture this: you come home after a long, hard day of school and sit down to play the piano for 10 to 15 minutes, just to relax before taking on the enormous pile of Trigonometry, Precalculus, and AP Music Theory homework. Yeah, that image doesn’t come easy, but freshman Richard Chen paints this image every day.
As you can see, freshman Richard Chen marches to the tune of his own piano. Outside of academics, the 14 -year- old is strongly committed to playing piano and violin. In April, he won the J.Y. Park Piano Competition in the senior division.
“I was pretty shocked to say the least. There was another student of my piano teacher who’s also really good, so that added the pressure. I was completely speechless, just lost for words,” said Chen.
The competition took place in Danbury, with competitors all around the state and some parts of New York. Now in his 10th year of playing piano, he has no intention of stopping. A large portion of his inspiration came from his brothers, who used to play piano themselves.
“I occasionally went to their practices and opened whatever scores they were reciting. Of course I started with some of the easier stuff, but I played through a lot of that, and that really helped get to a high level,” said  Chen.
His talent took immense amounts of of hard work and dedication. Chen takes lessons at the Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford a few times a week and practices about one to two hours a day. On top of that, Richard is taking Honors Trigonometry, Honors Precalculus, and AP Music Theory during his freshman year, all of which are junior and senior level  classes.
“I’ve taught at the high school for about 27 years, mostly honors. We usually have a freshman taking Trigonometry every five to eight years,” said Honors Trigonometry teacher Linda Johansen.
Academically, Chen says he is highly self-motivated, and that past experience in high level classes drove him to enroll in these harder courses.
The East Lyme Middle School orchestra teacher, Colin Wheatley, has watched Richard’s music ability with the violin grow and develop from sixth to eighth grade. Overall, Richard’s confidence and leadership helped him mold into the person he is today.
“During middle school, Richard grew from a violinist who played a little harshly to an excellent leader. I do not exaggerate when I say that having Richard play in a violin section is a little like having a professional planted in the orchestra. His confidence, ability, and sound improve and motivate everyone around him,” said Mr. Wheatley.

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