A young Sunset Park resident is a king with the keys.
In just a short amount of time, 15-year-old Juan Carpio has become a whiz at the piano. A student at St. Edmund’s Preparatory High School, Carpio finished his freshman year on the Principal’s List. But \ his truest passion lies with music.
Although he has fallen in love with the instrument, Carpio wasn’t always an avid piano fan. “I tried to play the piano when I was nine years old for about a month but then I stopped,” he recalled.
His days of tickling the keys seemed to be over before they had begun. However, a sale gone awry helped him rekindle his passion for the instrument. “I had a keyboard until I was about 13. For years, I wasn’t interested in it at all,” he says. “We were about to sell it, but the guy we sold it to couldn’t find the proper adapter for it. He tried about six of them, but none of them worked so he returned it to us and we paid him back.”
Once the youngster had the keyboard back in his possession, he tried to teach himself once again. “Just by coincidence, I found the actual adapter to it and I started playing again,” he said. “I started teaching myself and realized that I really enjoyed it.”
At first, Carpio taught himself by ear. After having success alone, he decided to receive lessons from professor piano teacher Shirley Lyle.
“When I met Ms. Shirley, she showed me one piece that she wanted me to learn and I actually really liked it. I had no idea how to read notes and she taught me how to do it,” he said. “Reading notes is quite difficult for me. I know what they are but I can’t read very fast and play it at once. I have to analyze it and learn it.”
Although Carpio claims that he’s struggled reading notes, Lyle was amazed in his ability to learn so fast. “I can’t get over it. It’s a miracle to me that he can memorize it like that,” she said of her student, who has only been playing for two years. “It’s difficult to explain.”
Initially, Carpio learned simpler pieces, such as “Chopsticks,” then learned more challenging pieces such as Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” and the third movement of “The Moonlight Sonata.”
Despite his youth, Carpio prefers old tunes to contemporary ones. “I prefer to play classical music because it’s more complex,” he said. “I find more feeling in it than in modern music which just seems very plain. Classical is very intricate.”
Carpio’s favorite pianist and inspiration in the field is Vladimir Horowitz. “I consider him the greatest performer,” he said. “He’s played everywhere, including the White House.”
Like his musical idol, Carpio received immediate recognition for his skills. His first public performance was October, 2014 at a school recital. “I was very nervous,” he recalled. “I was shaking the entire time before the performance, but after I finished the piece, it was incredible. Everyone loved it. I loved it.”
Carpio then performed in bigger venues. This past May, he competed in the Hispanic Youth Showcase, which took place in Newark, New Jersey at the Performing Arts Center and won first place.
“I was very happy,” Carpio noted. “I can’t describe it. It was a larger venue, more people and harder competition. It gave me confidence to keep playing.”
Although he has a thrill playing the piano, Carpio – who also loves soccer and basketball — considers it more of a hobby than a future career. “My favorite is either science or math,” he said. “I want to pursue a career in neurosurgery. I really think the brain is amazing.”