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Council honors Little Neck violin prodigy

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He is only 9 years old. He is in the fourth grade. He plays a three-quarters size violin. And he has been playing for only 4 1/2 years.

But when Aaron Huang, dressed in a snug, child-sized tuxedo with black suspenders, placed bow on strings at City Hall March 12 and let "Spring" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" ring out in strong, confident tones, he scored a perfect "10."

The young Little Neck musician performed for Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) and other members of the Council as they honored him with a proclamation recognizing the "highly positive impact his distinct gifts have had in creating a sense of unity and serenity throughout the world."

Aaron, a sweet-faced, amiable boy with close-cropped black hair, appeared calm and controlled, even when getting ready to perform in front of the Council of the nation's largest city. In addition to his prowess as a violinist, he is an award-winning pianist, an avid reader and a star pupil in District 26's Gifted and Talented program at PS 18 in Queens Village.

"Aaron is very, very talented," said his teacher, Anna Heifetz. "He's very advanced."

Heifetz, who is distantly related to the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz, has instructed Aaron since he began his violin studies at the age of 4 1/2.

"He has a great potential," she added. "He is very musical. He puts lots of feeling into the music. He has unbelievable stage presence."

That's unusual for child prodigies, she said, who demonstrate excellent technical skill, but often play mechanically and without feeling. But Aaron's excellent technique and mature sensibility combined to hold members of the City Council and spectators rapt for 3 1/2 minutes. When he finished, tumultuous applause erupted from the gallery and individual council members shouted "Bravo!"

Neither of Aaron's parents are musicians, although his father Jacques, a jewelry importer, studied violin in his childhood. He said that he and his wife Songzhen, a textile designer, encouraged Aaron to study music early on to help him gain confidence and overcome his childhood shyness.

It seems to have worked. Aaron has been performing in public since the age of 5. A year later, he won first place in the Classical Period Piano Competition at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. At the age of 7, he became the youngest violinist to join the Ambassadors of Peace Youth Orchestra, a citywide ensemble that provides tuition-free group instruction to about 65 young musicians. He has since appeared with the orchestra, often as soloist, in performances at the United Nations, Lincoln Center, the White House and Madison Square Garden, and for Pope John Paul II and the King of Spain.

"He's an amazing young man," said Weprin, who represents the district where Aaron lives. "He's mature beyond his years. He's traveled the world. He's been performing violin since he's 4 years old. He has God-given talent. I'm very impressed with him."

But Aaron now faces the challenge of balancing music with his other interests. He said he used to practice every day but has now cut that down to two to three hours per week to accommodate after-school math and swimming classes. He also loves to read (he has read all the Harry Potter books and is eagerly awaiting the upcoming fifth novel) and work with computers.

His classmates, many of whom attended the City Hall ceremony, agreed that Aaron was talented and intelligent but also very grounded.

"He's nice," said Daniel Ngai, who has known Aaron for two years. "Kind of quiet. He's kind of serious."

Do his parents push him to practice?

"My mom helps me," Aaron said. "She practices piano with me. I never say 'I'm done practicing.' She decides when I start and stop. Sometimes we argue because I don't want to play."

Songzhen Huang said it's too early to tell if Aaron is destined to be a professional musician.

"If he likes it, then for me it's no question," she said. "But then he needs to spend more time. Right now, I don't see it happening that way. But we'll let him make the decision."

Heifetz said she was certain Aaron could be a successful violinist.

"He's very well developed," she said. "He just needs to grow, to learn more repertoire. He does not have weaknesses."

As photographers swarmed around the young musician just before his performance, Aaron's father smiled.

"He's really lucky," Jacques Huang said, then added, "He's just a kid. Maybe it's too much for him."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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