Head's Blog - When I Grow Up (By Mr. Crehan)

Posted on: 08/12/2017

Children at school are often keen to share their ambitions and to tell us what they want to be when they grow up. Over the years, astronauts, footballers and hairdressers have been regular favourites, but children’s interests ebb and flow as they broaden their experience and new vistas open for them. It is quite rare, I suspect, for a child to make a career decision at the age of 8, pursue it single-mindedly, and realise that ambition at the age of 14.

As a young child, Rhys Concessao had sat in on his mother’s piano lessons and then started to take lessons himself. He quickly picked up proficiency and started to work through the grades. Rhys joined St. Helen’s College at the age of 8 when he was Grade 3 on the piano. One morning at school, Rhys listened as Brendan, a fellow pupil who was two years older, played brilliantly in assembly. Brendan was a Grade 8 pianist who played with great sensitivity and panache, and his performance inspired Rhys who, shortly after this experience, told me that he had decided to become an international concert pianist.

And he was serious about it. Rhys began to practice every day for several hours and was hungry for more rehearsal time. Rhys’ parents, Nisha and Roshan, supported his ambition wholeheartedly, and, following discussions with them, we arranged for Rhys to attend school part-time so that he could have extra lesson and practice hours, while working to a modified school curriculum.

Unsurprisingly given Rhys’ exceptional motivation, he made dramatic progress, started to win music competitions and performed wonderfully at the St. Helen’s College Musicians’ Concert. He went on to win a Scholarship to The Purcell Music School and a Sir Elton John Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Since then Rhys has won many awards and has performed at venues and events around the world, as documented on his website http://www.rhysconcessao.com/index.html. He has received particular support from the great pianist Láng Lǎng, with whom he has studied.

An international performer, Rhys was closer to home last month and I heard him play Chopin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor with the Reading Symphony Orchestra. Given his tender age of just 14 and the challenge presented by this particular concerto (Chopin was a virtuosic pianist and the final movement is particularly challenging) I was not expecting more than a competent performance, but I could not have been more wrong. Rhys’ playing was technically faultless and full of nuance and emotion. To cap this, he played the famously difficult, hand-blurring La Campanella by Liszt as an encore – brilliantly. For this piece, Láng Lǎng’s advice to Rhys was to use his fingers on the piano keys like a duck flapping in the water to get the best sound! There is a short clip of Rhys paying part of the concerto (but sadly not the encore) on his website.

We have invited Rhys to attend St. Helen’s Day next year. He was inspired by a fellow pupil and it would be wonderful for our current pupils to hear of - and perhaps be inspired in turn by – the intense passion and patient practice on which Rhys is building his success.

A last word from Rhys:

‘As Láng Lǎng puts it simply, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”