Age: 16Cincinnati, OH
Project Title: Music through stories: A new kind of fairytale
In my project, ‘Music through Stories: A New Kind of Fairytale’, I hope to inspire musicians and audience members alike with a new connection to classical music. Classical music is full of magic and I believe that story telling must come into play when performing this genre of music. Through the process of learning a piece, musicians begin to develop a story, gradually building the characters and plots of their own fairytale. To bring it all together, musicians tell these stories through the medium of their performance. Only then, can the magic of music unfold and be truly appreciated.
My name is Kasey Shao, and I am a rising senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am so honored to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow and join this community of innovators. Since learning about this renowned Institute and fellowship program, it has been one of my goals to become a Davidson Fellow. This motivates me to continue my work as a pianist, a musician, and a storyteller.
My project, ‘Music Through Stories: A New Kind of Fairytale’, is focused on reinforcing and spreading the magic of music through the art of storytelling. This idea of bringing stories into music began when I was 6 years old. My mom had taken me to listen to a Philadelphia Orchestra children’s concert, where they performed Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Even though I was familiar with the work, I never imagined that the presentation of the music juxtaposed against the backdrop of an animated story would bring the symphony to life and provide a new meaning to a timeless masterpiece. Throughout the performance, each instrument transformed into a character - the calm resonance of the strings demonstrating the innocent Peter, the whimsical sounds of the oboe meandering as the wandering duck, and three brass sounds of the French Horns lurking in the shadows as the smelly, hideous wolf. With each of these elements playing their role, the whole story came to life. I started to realize that music spoke to me as if I was listening to actual dialogue between the characters. I began to see the true magic in music. The introduction to innumerable styles, composers, and stories following this performance only served to amplify this understanding. Like a magic key, each piece had the ability to reach all audiences while unlocking imagination and creativity. I was intrigued by this new interpretation of music, and it inspired me to recall the powerful storytelling abilities of music when performing on stage.
The journey of learning wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, I had difficulties getting through a piece and finding its true meaning. Other times, passages were technically difficult, or some interpretations would pose a unique challenge. When I was faced with these situations, my piano teacher, Dr. Ran Dank, professor at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, guided me tremendously. He not only aided me with the more technical components of the music, but also with thinking outside the measure lines, establishing a setting, or building more complex characters and plots. Having this deeper understanding of music, I was able to expand my project to my surrounding community and bring a new dimension to my project with the help of my school music teacher, Mr. John Caliguri. With his support, I created my music club, Music Nuts, through which I was able to share my project idea with the other musicians and show them the art of storytelling in music. Together, we spread our stories to our community in nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and elementary schools. Mrs. Mary Ann and Mrs. Rosalee Campbell were both gracious enough to give me the opportunity to showcase my project at the Cincinnati Women’s Club and the Cincinnati Symphony Club. It was here that I was able to appreciate the deeper connection and appreciation from the audience for my storytelling through performance.
People may deem classical music as “boring”, but as a classical musician, I know that classical music is far from that. In order for music to come alive, the musician and the audience must be able to connect to the music in a personal way. Through my project, each musician would form a story from the music they are learning, broadening their own imagination, creativity, and musicianship. Musicians are, through their stories, able to give meaning to each note, each phrase, thereby gaining a more mature understanding of the piece, better connecting with the piece and more strongly conveying its musical elements. Musicians would then tell that story to audiences and pave the way for more personal connections. By presenting stories and fairytales through classical music and expanding this world to musicians and audiences alike, classical music becomes more accessible and understandable. Just as musicians approach their music in a different way and better their art, so too the audience of classical music now envelops a larger age range, where young adults and even young children can become connected to the new world of colors, emotions, and stories that are hidden in classical music.
In addition to the required courses that fall within the high school curriculum, my school offers a wide array of music-oriented classes and clubs that I have taken full advantage of. This typically involves accompanying the orchestras, choirs and bands. Taken together, these experiences have afforded me the opportunity to sample different genres while staying true to my own classical music. In these groups, I have played a variety of music ranging from excerpts of French operas, to jazz riffs, to even a string quartet arrangement of the Mario Kart theme. I have always enjoyed making music with them and performing different kinds of music other than traditional classical piano music. Because music and the piano have become such an important part of my life, I hope to attend a music institute and major in piano performance.
I have received multiple honors and awards and made my orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra when I was 12. I was named the National YoungArts 2020 Gold Medal Winner, a 2020 Overture Awards Winner and was a finalist at the 2020 Hilton Head Junior International Piano Competition. I have won the first place at the 2020 Dubois International Piano Competition, the 2019 Louisville Orchestra YoungArts Competition, the 2019 Jack and Lucile Wonnell Young Arts Concerto Competition, the 2018 Steinway and Sons Piano Competition, and the ETSU International Piano Competition. I also have won National second and the Best Chopin Prize, Midwestern Division and the Ohio State Winner of the 2018 MTNA competition, and the Best Solo Prize and second prize winner at the 2017 Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition. I have been featured on a 6ABC, WKRC Local 12, and Cincy Lifestyle special and have also appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cincinnati Business Inquirer, Oberlin Tribune and Cleveland Classical. Outside of my musical accolades, I am the Build Captain of Science Olympiad team and have won medals in the regional and state competitions. I am also a member of the National French Honor Society, Student Council, the JETS Engineering team, and the founder and president of Music Nuts. Despite these numerous awards, I know that I am just opening the next chapter to my musical fairytale in anticipation of the stories to be told and characters to be formed.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be a concert pianist, spreading my love for my music to audiences around the world and hopefully touring in other countries.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Krystian Zimerman, Alfred Brendel, who have inspired my playing, Frank Sinatra, who I have always loved to listen to, and J.S. Bach, Frederic Chopin, who I have played since the beginning of my musical journey.
In the News
CINCINNATI TEEN AWARDED $10,000 FOR PROJECT JOINING THE MAGIC OF MUSIC WITH THE ART OF STORYTELLING
Kasey Shao to be Named a 2020 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Cincinnati – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 16-year-old Kasey Shao of Cincinnati. Shao won a $10,000 scholarship for her project, Music through stories: A new kind of fairytale. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am so honored to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow and join this community of innovators,” said Shao. “Since learning about this renowned Institute and fellowship program, it has been one of my goals to become a Davidson Fellow. This motivates me to continue my work as a pianist, a musician, and a storyteller.”
Shao’s project is focused on reinforcing and spreading the magic of music through the art of storytelling. Shao believes that by presenting stories and fairytales through classical music and expanding this world to musicians and audiences alike, classical music becomes more accessible and understandable. Just as musicians approach their music in a different way and better their art, so too the audience of classical music now envelops a larger age range, where young adults and even young children can become connected to the new world of colors, emotions, and stories that are hidden in classical music.
Shao is a rising senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. She hopes to continue to spread her love for music to audiences around the world as a concert pianist.
Click here to download the full press release
Click the image to download hi-res photos:
The following disclosure is provided pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 598.1305:The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a Nevada non-profit corporation which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt private operating foundation. We are dedicated to supporting the intellectual and social development of profoundly gifted students age 18 and under through a variety of programs. Contributions are tax deductible.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.