At age 10, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had already composed several symphonies. At age 10, pianist Daniel Hsu auditioned for a spot at Curtis Institute, one of the United States’ most prestigious conservatories.

“My sister, who was 16, and also plays the piano, and had just been admitted to Juilliard, so I wanted to try too”, explains Daniel, now 12.

When Daniel was accepted, his parents sold their house in California and moved with him to Philadelphia. Mom Sue and dad Ed have no musical talent, but their three children clearly excel: Daniel’s brother Andrew, 14, studies piano and composition at Curtis.


“Being accepted to Curtis is extremely hard,” says Daniel’s professor, Gary Graffman, who was himself admitted to the conservatory at age 7. “We usually have 120 people audition for the two spots in the piano department. But the number of very young, very talented pianists and violinists is increasing, and most of them are Asian or Asian-American. These families seem to know that in order to become a successful musician, you have to work very hard very early.” Daniel’s parents are from Taiwan.

Daniel, who has played the piano since age 6, practices four hours each day, and already has two piano concertos in his repertoire. “I’m the baby at Curtis”, he reports. “The other students treat me like their little brother.”

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