Por Jesika Millano
AL DIA TODAY
MELBOURNE — The grand piano makes him look even smaller on stage. Sitting on the bench, his legs don’t even touch the floor.
But his hands are agile and quickly reach all the keys required by the piece he plays.
His name is Izel Gómez Calderón, the six-year-old piano prodigy.
The piano has been a huge part of Izel’s young life thanks to the love of music that his parents have instilled in him.
His mother, Melisa Calderón, is a music educator and teacher of piano and pedagogue. She was born in southern Argentina.
Izel’s father, William Gómez, was born in El Salvador and is a pianist by profession. He also plays saxophone, guitar, and trumpet. He started out playing popular music, but he now dedicates himself to classical piano.
Their son, born in Costa Rica, was only seven months old when he began attending Early Music Stimulation classes with his mother and other babies accompanied by their mothers.
“Even when he was in my stomach, I sang to him, read him poetry and children’s stories, and listened to a lot of classical music. At 16 weeks of gestation, a fetus is already listening to what is happening around it, and is able to recognize the voice of its mother and those in her life, “ Calderón said.
At only two years old, Izel could play simple melodies on the piano such as “Happy Birthday”, “Los Pollitos Dicen” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, among others.
His auditory stimulation was already showing fruit as his fingers responded and he was extremely motivated. He began receiving violin and cello classes under the Japanese methodology of Shiniki Suzuki, which is based mainly on auditory education. At this point, he was learning four instruments: violin, cello, piano and singing.
At three years old, when he heard a piano student in the music school that his parents owned, he fell in love with the sound of the music and how the student was playing. He sat down at another piano and was able to play the piece by ear in a matter of minutes.
His passion for music was clearly evident, so he began taking formal piano lessons at four years old with his mentor, M.M. Ludmila Melzer.
He arrived to the United States nine months ago with his mother, who is studying to receive a master’s degree in Business Administration. He is homeschooled by his mother and aunt.
“All of his school materials are in English,” Calderón said.
“Izel loves to learn and took to it quickly, learning to read and write at age four. He has always been a very curious child. In the mornings, he studies academic subjects, then plays for about an hour with his cousins. After lunch, he studies piano for an hour, where he practices the pieces he is learning, “she said.
In 2016, Izel received master classes with violinist Nicolette Solomon and cellist Barbara Balatero at the Suzuki Method Festival in Costa Rica. In 2017, he took master classes with the violinist Maya Kilburn at the School of Music of the National University in 2017.
Additionally, he has earned several awards.
In November 2016, he won the Gala Concert competition for Cello and performed at the Chorito Picado Auditorium of the National University in Costa Rica as a soloist. All in the same day at only four years old, he was recognized for being the youngest participant of the II International Contest and Festival of Contemporary Music “The Music of the Century”.
In 2017, he won first place in the International Music Competition Belgrade in Serbia, and this past February, Izel participated in the American Fine Arts Festival Concerto Competition (AFAF) and won second place, being the youngest participate in his category.
The win opened up the opportunity for him to be able to play in Russia, but after having several fundraising recitals in Costa Rica, he was not able to make enough money to go.
His most recent recital was at the prestigious Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall in New York, which was a prize for having won the AFAF International Contest.
Izel is the first Costa Rican to participate in and win an international music contest.
At only five years old, he has already begun to reap the fruits of his natural talent. He is also the first student of the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA), an internationally renowned institution that works hand in hand with the Universidad Nacional (UNA), to win an international competition at such a young age.
One of the dreams of this young boy, besides being able to play piano faster than his father, is learning to write his own music just as Mozart did.
“He would also like to learn Chinese,” his mother said.
“He has even told me repeatedly that he would have preferred me to speak Chinese to him when he was in the womb so that he would already speak it. I always tell him that he can be whatever he wants to be as long as he studies hard and puts in the effort to achieve his dreams, “ she added.
Izel is currently looking for sponsors to participate in contests at the national, state and international level.
“Here in the United States there are excellent piano teachers, master classes to receive, camps to attend, and so much more to be done,” Calderón said.
“For him, having a recital is a gift. He enjoys the opportunity to share his music with others as it fills him with hope,” she added.