Albert Chow began playing the violin at 6. At 9, he performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
At 15, he gave a public concert at the Hong Kong City Hall Theater, which was received by a crowd of hundreds applauding, cheering, and whistling. At 8, he was a violin and piano soloist with the Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra. At 10, he earned an Advanced Certificate of Performance in violin from the Royal Schools of Music in London.
It has been said that the 18-year-old freshman from Kowloon, Hong Kong, is the most highly-recommended music student ever admitted to MIT. One expert calls him “the second coming of Beethoven.”
Chow submitted to the Institute a CD with 12 tracks. Rating students with a top score of outstanding, music faculty rated Chow as “truly outstanding,” adding that his playing is “virtually perfect.” Chow, who says it is easier to express himself musically than to express himself in English, is saying on this day in perfect English: “This is one of my secrets. I seldom tell people this, but I have an aura of music around me.
“You see, music is with me even when I talk to you, or when I take an exam, or when I go to the toilet. I have music in me, and it seldom really stops.
“When I am doing something like solving a problem, then the music will go by itself. I must say, it is new every time, every day, every minute. Sometimes I hear, sometimes I compose, sometimes I create, but it just flows. When the same music appears again and again, then I capture it and write it on paper.
“Yes, I am hearing it now,” he says. “I hear a flute solo.”
Chow says that he believes he has no particular physical gift for the violin. “My fingers are not that well-formed for this. But I do think I have some talent of musical insight,” he says, adding that as a child, he knew how to do things on the instrument and express musical thoughts and feelings that no one could have taught him, including having the ability to communicate through the silences.
It was difficult as a child, he says, to musically express love, passion, loneliness, suffering, or joy. But as he has grown as a person, his music has grown too.
“Rapidly,” he says, adding that he is now in a most exciting time of his life. “As I’ve grown, I’ve recently acquired new ideas, a new perspective, and my music also suddenly has a second dimension. “Some kind of emotion must flow from the music, instead of a bunch of notes. When I play, I always think, if Bach or Mozart were here, what would he say? Often now, I really feel that I have the same feeling and emotion as the composer did when he wrote the music.”
DEVELOP YOUR TALENTS
The only child of a homemaker and a stockbroker, both his parents enjoy music but neither is a musician. Chow believes he developed his musical talent because for six years when he was a boy, his family’s TV set was broken.
“The TV always had a black screen. I just thought that’s how it was supposed to be,” he says. “From the beginning of life, I believe we are interested in a finite number of things. I didn’t have TV as a source to occupy my mind, and it released so much potential to do other things.”
At MIT, Chow plans to double major in chemical engineering and maybe biological engineering and also to concentrate in music. Maybe he’ll become a scientist, he says, maybe a doctor, a composer, or a conductor. He doesn’t know yet.
Ask Chow about his success, and he tells you the parable of the talents from the Bible. The moral of the parable is that making good use of all your talents is what matters most to God.
It is precisely why, he says, he is at MIT and not at a music school. He believes that he has been bestowed with talents besides those which are musical, and it is his responsibility to himself and to the world to develop them, he says.
“You must develop yourself according to the gifts you are given. You may inherit talents but you must utilize them. You must use what you are given, so that you’re not just taking from society. You must always,” he says, “be contributing to life.”