PUHI — A young island musician will represent America before an international audience this spring.
Jannik Evanoff of Puhi, an 8-year-old piano and violin virtuoso, won an international competition and will perform in Germany at the second International Music Festival for Young Musicians. On Feb. 5, he will join 30 young musicians from 17 different countries — including Austria, Israel, India, Poland and Russia — and perform at the famous Laeiszhalle in Hamburg.
Evanoff is the only American to be showcased.
“My mom told me I’m representing my country,” he said.
Claudia Evanoff first heard about the festival through a German Facebook group.
“They were looking for young musicians, so I thought, ‘Let’s give a chance. You never know,’” she said.
Evanoff began music instruction when he was three. He began learning violin, then started piano at the age of 5.
“I think I wanted to start playing piano because my mother said it’s an excellent feeling — playing piano,” he said.
There aren’t on-island opportunities for piano competition, but Evanoff gained stage experience at seasonal performances. His talent also shone through at annual American Piano Guild Society performances, where he earned top ratings.
At the age of 7, he enrolled in the Kauai Community College’s Continuing Education program and joined the KCC Orchestra, 2nd violin section.
Evanoff has been under the tutelage of Helen Sina for violin, Monica Chung for piano and Sarah Tochiki for orchestra experience.
“There are people who are enabling young kids like Jannik to be exposed to music at higher levels,” said his father, George Evanoff. “You can only teach for so long at the junior level.”
The young musician plays regularly for residents at Regency Pua Kea Senior Center. His siblings are Anika (oldest sister), Alina, Nicklas and Hendrik. Anika, Nicklas and Alina play violin and are gifted, as well.
“I especially like playing for my family and my little brother, Hendrik,” Jannik said. “He dances when I play.”
Jannik displayed a gift for music growing up. George Evanoff said he has no musical talents, while Claudia Evanoff played piano.
“But we both enjoy music and always have music playing at home,” George said. “As a young toddler, Jannik sang a lot, so we knew he enjoyed music as well.”
His parents encouraged their son to play.
“We always thought that music was an essential part of a well-rounded education and we were lucky enough to find Helen Sina to give him violin lessons,” George said. “Since Claudia had also told him what a great feeling it was to play piano, he wanted to start lessons as soon as his hands were big enough to start.”
He said they are just glad to have offered him the opportunity for violin and piano lessons that led him to have his natural abilities come through.
“He has just taken off on his own,” George Evanoff said. “We encourage that he practices daily, but we don’t rigorously enforce it. We want him to enjoy his music. He wants the audience to feel the music.”
When Jannik gets frustrated if he makes a few mistakes, his parents remind him of his favorite quote by Beethoven: “To play a wrong note is insignificant. To play without passion is inexcusable.”
Jannik also likes a challenge. He likes getting ready for Helen Sina’s violin performances. He liked getting ready for the American Guild Piano Auditions. He liked preparing for Lois Ricciardi’s piano recitals. KCC Orchestra end of season performances had him very motivated for violin. When he heard he could audition internationally, he put himself to work and loved every bit of it, his dad said.
“This is showing him that there is no limit to what music can offer him and that his hard work pays off,” George Evanoff said.
To audition for the international competition, Evanoff played three piano pieces — two compositions by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, and one by Frederic Chopin — that he chose for being melodic, up-tempo and virtuosic. His recorded performance was submitted to judges via YouTube.
His February program will consist of five compositions by Bartok on stage.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help defray the costs of the trip to Germany.
Two dress rehearsals and benefit fundraisers have also been scheduled at Island School Main Hall. The first is 6:30 p.m. Thursday and the second is 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14.
Nicklas will be joining Mom and Jannik to the performance in Hamburg.
“You enter these types of competitions thinking, ‘He’s good enough to enter.’ But it’s a complete surprise when you get invited to perform and a panic to realize the financial commitment,” George Evanoff said. “If a brother or sister could go, that would make it for Jannik.”