REDDING, Conn. - When Caitlan Rinaldy turned 5, she asked her mother for a piano. Five years later, she is playing in front of thousands at Carnegie Hall while growing up in Redding.
Originally from Australia, the family moved to the United States in 2011 for Caitlan to have opportunity to study at some of the most prestigious music conservatories in this country. Her mother, Silvia, wanted Caitlan to learn to play music "with emotion" and pursue her dreams.
"I don't have to be able to speak Japanese or Chinese but people can understand my music," Caitlan said of how she expresses herself through her playing of the piano.
The 10-year-old admitted however, that some of her favorite pieces to play are "show-offy." One that she just learned is the Franz Liszt piece "Gnomenreigen," which is fast paced and very technical.
"I really love everything," she said of her music.
Caitlan and her brother Nathan have shown the natural talent and willingness to work to be considered prodigies. He began playing flute after the family moved to Pennsylvania and after only three lessons was asked to audition for the Temple University of Music and received the scholarship to attend. In the fall, Nathan will be joining the boys choir at Temple University and studying flute.
Since Caitlan started playing, she has participated in numerous competitions and performed with both adult and children's orchestras as the accompanist.
This year, she was allowed to bypass the preliminaries of the Young Piano Concerto of New Jersey competition and performed in the final. In March, she won the Chopin International Competition in Hartford.
After working for one year in the Philadelphia area with one teacher, they moved to Redding to be closer to her new teacher Yoshie Akimoto.
"She produces music that sounds like heaven," said her mother, Silvia, of Akimoto. They moved to Redding last year after months of driving back and forth from Pennsylvania for classes with the prized teacher.
In August, Caitlan will be starting classes at the Julliard Music Pre-college program, something she said she's thrilled to do. The college offers the program for elementary through high school age students on weekends.
Caitlan said she remembers the first time her mother took her to a piano store. She didn't know anything about the different pianos and told her mother she wanted a Steinway & Son simply because of the way it sounded.
Silvia said it took Caitlan a few years to realize why they couldn't purchase that piano at the time: It cost $120,000. After years of practice, Caitlan now has a Steinway & Son piano at home.
The brother and sister each practice three to six hours every day, while being home-schooled by their mother. But Silvia says she sometimes has to pry her daughter away from the piano to do her school work.
"My break time is having fun on the piano," Caitlan.
Caitlan says she didn't know what she would do if she couldn't play the piano but said it would be something to do with helping people. "I just want to help people out," she said.
Last year, her piano performances helped to raise over $60,000 for the nonprofit group Musicopia, a group that raises money to help families pay for music lessons for children. The Philadelphia based nonprofit works also to get instruments to children as well as hosts several out-of-school ensembles for students in the Delaware Valley.
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