Chandler Piano Prodigy Kylie Smith In Big Show - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Piano Prodigy Kylie Smith In Big Show

January 8th, 2019 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Piano Prodigy Kylie Smith In Big Show

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

A Chandler teen pianist who fell in love with music at 3 is thrilled she’s one of three students from across the country chosen to perform at a prestigious, large musical instrument convention this month.

Kylie Shea Smith, 14, a freshman at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, will play a song she composed, “In Memory of Rocky,” on piano at the Junior Original Concert at the 2019 National Association of Music Merchants show Jan. 24 in Anaheim, California.

It’s reportedly the largest musical instrument convention held in North America and features Yamaha Music students. Euphonium player Brian C. Wilson will play alongside Smith at the national convention.

Smith, whose face lights up when she plays piano, has played at the National Junior Original Concert shows in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016, as well as at the International Junior Original Concert in Tokyo in 2014 and last year.

The Junior Original Concert features students who take classes through the Yamaha Music Education System. It gives the young musicians a chance to tap into their musical potential by composing original songs and performing them in front of eager audiences.

The Yamaha Music schools operate in 42 different countries, and Smith studies at the East Valley Yamaha Music School in Chandler.

“It will be fun to see what the other people have composed, what new music and other instruments from all over the world have created,” Smith said.

Participating in the previous JOC as part of the NAMM show in the previous years was a thrilling experience.

“I definitely had a lot of nerves and excitement about it,” Smith said.

She said she had a chance to practice and get “technique work from professionals” during the national JOC events and practice her song prior to performing it.

At this year’s NAMM show, Smith will play a song she wrote about her godmother’s dog that died. She said she and her brother, Karson, 9, do not have any pets and they “just adopted him as our dog.”

Her godmother, Cheryl Tondrowski, and her husband, John Tondrowski, were crying when they saw Kylie perform the song the first time, said Stephanie Smith, Kylie’s mother. Kylie said it took her about a year to compose the song.

Kylie’s composition teacher, Tomoko Yonemaru at the East Valley Yamaha Music School, helped her with the song. Kylie said Heidi Grimes, owner of the East Valley Yamaha Music School, works with her on refining her “composition technique for performance,” while teacher Karen Nguyen teaches her repertoire.

Grimes said Kylie’s passion and talent as a musician are evident.

“When she was a very young child, she found extreme amounts of joy in music,” Grimes said. “We always look for that. When a child is simply delighted when they’re learning new things, she has a special something. When she (Kylie) plays for audiences, she communicates the music beautifully. She’s really down-to-earth, kind, friendly. She helps out in the office. She enjoys helping younger students. She’s a very, very gifted young lady.”

She said something that makes Kylie unusual is she says “thank you” and corrects any mistakes she makes while playing. But Grimes said she saw Kylie perform at the recent international concert, and “she just nailed her performance.”

As part of the Yamaha Music instruction, students sing and play piano and keyboards and learn to improvise.

“That’s really the full circle of music learning,” Grimes said. “That’s totally valuable for children because they get to express what’s inside of them.”

Kylie takes three lessons a week: in a group Grimes teaches, as well as with Nguyen and Yonemaru.

The busy teen said playing in the international JOC concerts was “pretty cool” and she met young musicians from Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, China and Mexico at the most recent one.

“It was amazing honestly,” Kylie said. “It’s always nice to see and meet people from all around the world. Of course, there’s a little language barrier, but it’s fun trying to communicate in music for one. Of course, there’s translators.”

Kylie, who also plays violin in her school’s orchestra, said she gets nervous before going on stage.

“I always get a stage anxiety, but over the years it’s gotten less and less intimidating,” she said.

Her mother said it’s been great to see how Kylie’s compositions have evolved when she gets lessons from the Yamaha teachers at the national JOC events.

“It’s amazing because your piece started out one way,” Stephanie said. “The more technique that she gets … training from teachers, it’s amazing just to see how it matures. It’s beautiful. It’s exciting. It’s amazing to watch.”

Stephanie introduced Kylie to music when she first took her to a music class at the Downtown Chandler Library when she was 3. One of the free classes at the library introduced children to Yamaha Music while another class she took later was at another location.

“The first one was amazing because they talked about how music tells a story,” Stephanie said.

Kylie said during concert season she plays piano about eight hours a week and is busy juggling honors classes at school.

“You don’t really have a lot of time to do anything besides lots of music and lots of school,” she said. “We find ways to balance it.”

While she loves music, especially jazz, Kylie said she would like to go into the medical field someday as some type of therapist. Stephanie works in quality assurance for a company that provides physical, speech and occupational therapy for children. At school Kylie is taking a biomedicine class.

She said the music classes have prepared her for “a lot of different events in life.”

“It’s definitely helped me gain a lot of self-discipline, hard work for a certain goal,” Kylie said. “That sort of thing will be very helpful in applying to different educational fields and stuff like that. It’s definitely taught me quite a few things that I don’t know what I’d do without them. It’s been a mostly fun experience. I really love every part of the experience.”

The East Valley Yamaha Music School is at 3160 N. Arizona Ave., Suite 102. Information: