Meet pianist and Chatham resident, Darren Yen, 17, who has been awarded the Grand Prix prize at the 2018 Rising Talents Festival for the third consecutive year. A junior at Chatham High School, Darren has studied piano for 7 years at the Wharton Performing Arts School, during which time has received numerous tops prizes including the Music Educators Association of New Jersey Competition, Golden Key Festival, Russian Music Festival, Rising Talents Festival, Crescendo International Music Competion, Little Mozarts Competition, and Prima Volta Music Competition.
Although Darren also plays flute and has studied music theory at Wharton’s Performing Arts School, his true passion is the piano. He rarely misses a day of practice, usually putting in between one to two hours at the instrument seven days a week. He recently performed Franz Liszt’s Rigoletto Paraphase, a transcription of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto at the 2018 “Making Music Count” Gala on February 23 which raised nearly $130,000 towards performing arts education for the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts.
Says Darren, “The Liszt piece I performed was not only very technically demanding, like most Liszt pieces, but it was also a fairly emotionally demanding piece as well. Lots of attention had to be paid to the voicing and overall flow of the piece. I truly enjoy how different Rigoletto is from most other Liszt compositions—mainly because this is a paraphrase on a piece by Verdi. This piece effectively captures the composing style of not only Liszt but also Verdi as well.”
Darren’s favorite subject in school in mathematics and he hopes to continue studying math in the future, as well continuing to play the piano.
“I truly enjoy playing the piano because I find it to be my greatest medium of expression. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t return to the piano,” says Darren. “I really enjoy the atmosphere at Wharton. Everyone shares a profound love for music that enriches the musical abilities of the students enrolled in Wharton’s music programs.”
Darren’s piano teacher, Wharton faculty member Anna Vozhik, has been teaching at the Performing Arts School for 15 years. Says Vozhik, “Darren showed a keen interest from his first piano lesson. He has never come to class unprepared in the nearly eight years that he has been my student. Demanding and persistent in the best way possible, he has grown into a mature musician before my eyes with an impressive repertoire, including works by J.S. Bach, Brahms, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Ravel, Poulenc, and of course Liszt.”
Continues Vozhik, “Darren is always focused and a great listener. During our lessons we discuss how to best perform a piece of music, and Darren loves to research works he is playing. I often wonder where he finds the time for all his accomplishments. Exceptionally organized and goal-oriented, he’s held numerous performances in Carnegie and other prestigious concert halls of New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey. Darren is a beautiful soul, and a pleasure to teach.”
Not only Darren but also his two siblings, Preston, 15, and Natalie, 11, study piano with Vozhik at Wharton. Says their mother, Janet Li, “There were two music schools around our area, one of which was Wharton. We felt that Wharton had more teachers, offered more music courses, and a more complete structure than the other music school. We know we made the right choice! The school is wonderful and the teachers are amazing. Anna Vozhik is truly an excellent and amazing teacher. She is strict and patient which works very well with my kids. We love her dearly!”