The Suffolk County News – Read the article on suffolkcountynews.net
Published: March 22, 2018
By: Liz Finnegan
BOHEMIA—Katlyn Smith is a 12-year-old music prodigy who has been doing amazing things on piano, and especially the violin, since she was only 4 years old. Now in the seventh grade at Ronkonkoma Middle School, she continues to amaze both in the classroom and in performance halls as her music takes center stage.
While her peers might choose to listen to or even play the music of contemporary pop artists, Katlyn prefers the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Chopin.
“I love classical music,” she said, noting that the music allows her a more expressive style of playing.
She said the piano “is fun,” but the violin holds a special place in her heart. “I’m more skilled [in violin] and I love playing it in a wide range of genres.” That genre also includes the music of The Beatles. “Their music is happy and I like happy music,” she said.
Katlyn has been performing on major concert stages for years, including Lincoln Center, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tilles Center at LIU Post and the Staller Center at Stony Brook University. She is a member of the Principal Orchestra with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, a group usually reserved for top high school musicians.
“We’re at concert halls almost every other weekend,” said her father Robert Smith. “[Katlyn] was the youngest to join the Youth Orchestra in the third grade.”
Smith said that music for Katlyn began in her preschool years. He arranged for her to have violin lessons, but then after around a month she found a YouTube video of violin instruction and began practicing daily and excelling. By the time she entered school at age 5, she was invited to begin playing with the fifth-grade orchestra. Everyone she performed for was awestruck by her talent.
Smith said Katlyn always seemed to have an inane ability to be able to play whatever music she’d hear. Now she can read and transpose music compositions that are sometimes 20 pages long. In addition, she wrote her own concerto at age 6, entitled “China’s Little Secret,” which was professionally recorded.
After years of taking lessons locally, two years ago she began taking lessons with Anton Polezhayev, a renowned violinist who has performed in major concert halls all over the world.
“She is definitely talented, there’s no denying that,” said Polezhayev. “She’s been able to make progress very quickly.”
He went on to say that aside from progressing at a rapid pace, Katlyn possesses all of the qualities of a good musician, which include consistency, good posture, attentiveness and discipline. “She can concentrate well, which is important, and doesn’t lose focus,” he said. “She’s a very mature child.
“I’ve taught many people over the years and out of hundreds, three or four are legitimately very talented, and there is no question [Katlyn is one of them]. If [music] is something she is interested in pursuing, she will be able to join the upper echelon [of performers] in the future.”
In addition to all of her lessons and practice sessions, Katlyn also found the time to form her own group, Smith Sisters Ensemble, playing with her older sister Ashley, 17, a Connetquot High School junior. They’ve performed at Westbury Music Fair and at various organizations and fundraisers.
Ashley, who plays viola, violin and piano, said she enjoys performing with her sister. However, she draws the line when measuring skills. “I’m pretty good, but not like Katlyn,” she said. “I’m so proud of her.”
Katlyn, who has a 97.88 academic average, practices her music three hours a day, six days a week. When asked what her friends think about her achievements, she said, “They ask me, ‘How do I become like you?’ I tell them with a lot of practice and hard work.”
“We don’t know how to keep up with this,” said Robert Smith. “It’s like we’re all on a train ride and she’s driving the locomotive, the rest of us are in the caboose, and she’s not telling us where she’s going. But it’s been a [great] ride.”