Meet the South African piano prodigy who’s on top of the world

By Sandy Cook
28 September 2016

Put Qden Blaauw in front of a piano and magic happens. Mozart, Bach, Debussy – they all come to life at his elegant fingers.

It’s hard to believe the Grade 6 learner from Welgemoed Primary in Cape Town has been playing the instrument for just four years.

And now he has been given the opportunity most pianists can only dream of: a chance to study with Chinese master pianist Lang Lang at a music camp in Poland.

“When he heard he’d been accepted he just burst into tears,” his proud dad Denric tells YOU. “He couldn’t believe it!”

Qden (12) is one of 10 children – and the first candidate from Africa -- selected from more than 500 applicants around the world to attend the prestigious Allianz Music Camp in Warsaw in November.

DSCF1946 Qden on holiday in Salzburg in Austria last year, visiting the birthplace of his hero, Mozart.

And it won’t cost him a thing – all expenses are paid for him and a parent. He’s decided Dad must be at his side. His mom, Quinette 'stresses too much',” he jokes.

Read more: Couples are trusting this 9-year-old to capture the biggest day of their lives

The trip will be the crowning glory in a year crammed with accolades for Qden, including seven trophies at the Stellenbosch Eisteddfod and two at the Cape Town Eisteddfod.

When he arrives in Poland he’ll receive two rehearsal lessons from professional pianists each day. He’ll also get master classes from Lang Lang and perform in concerts in Poland. The honour is huge. Lang Lang, a renowned concert pianist, has performed with leading orchestras around the world. In 2011 he performed at the White House.

Qden discovered his gift almost by accident. Four years ago, when he was in Grade 2, Qden would wait outside the music room to be picked up by his mom after school. He liked the sounds emerging from the room and asked his mom if he could start classes.

He was a total natural.

He started downloading sheet music from the web and taught himself to read it. And he immersed himself in YouTube videos to learn as much as he could. While his teacher at school was busying him with basic scales, Qden would go home and rattle off complicated Beethoven pieces, his fingers a blur on the keyboard.

He’s a budding composer too and his compositions have been aired on local radio. One of his compositions has also been performed in a concert in Adelaide, Australia.

Qden tries to practise as often as he can. But it’s not easy during the week with homework to be done and tests to study for. However over weekends he spends three hours a day at least at the piano.

Favourite composer? Mozart, without question. In fact Qden, his sister Quine (8) and his parents headed for Salzburg in Austria on holiday last year because Qden wanted to see the birthplace of his hero.

So how do mom and dad feel about their talented son. “Of course, we’re incredibly proud,” Denric says. “But more than that we are just so happy for him, that he’s able to do the thing he loves.”

Read more: Piano-playing child prodigy visits SA

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