WOLFVILLE - She may be the youngest musician in the Peng sisters’ quartet, but tiny Colette is serious about pitch.
Like her sisters, the seven-year-old Wolfville resident plays both violin and piano. Colette, however, has a special trick that is uniquely hers.
“She has big ears and her ears can wiggle. I always tease her that I should have named her ‘Ear’ instead. This story is from the famous Chinese composer Er Nie, who composed the Chinese National Anthem,” says Gwen Peng, mother of the musical siblings.
Er Nie, Peng explains, could also wiggle his ears, and was widely celebrated for having perfect pitch.
Whether her sisters like it or not, Colette has similar talents.
“Colette could recognize the wrong note from far away and point out the right one.”
All four Peng sisters enjoy competing in the Annapolis Valley Music Festival, and practice daily leading up to a performance. They also partake in the music program at Horton High School.
“The Pengs are all involved in the orchestras, either the junior group and the senior group. As well, Chantal is the accompanist for the concert choir. To have students who are so dedicated to their music-making is a joy,” said Kay Greene, music director at Horton High School.
Chantal, the eldest sister, has enchanted audiences at local, provincial, national and international competitions, even taking the stage at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“I like playing music because it’s a great way to express yourself without using words, like when you’re frustrated and you don’t know what to say but you can just pound away at some angry type of song and just let out your emotions without causing somebody else to hurt or feel sad inside,” the 15-year-old says.
An award-winning pianist, Chantal often teaches and accompanies her sisters on the instrument she fell in love with at just six years old.
“I learned that patience is super important and that we all learn differently,” she says.
Charlotte, 13, prefers violin to piano. She’s received a Junior A Fiddler nod at the local festival and won second place at the Maritime Fiddle Festival.
She loves taking the stage at the Kings Riverside Court assisted living facility in Kentville with her sisters.
“We volunteer every summer, and when we play, we make the residents smile. It feels really good to share our music and make people happy,” the Evangeline Middle School student says.
Ten-year-old Carmen started learning piano four years ago, and received the Acadia University Rose Bowl honour for piano at the Annapolis Valley Music Festival last year. She still has some catching up to do to big sis Chantal, a five-time Rose Bowl recipient.
Along with the girls’ father, Acadia University statistics professor Jianan Peng, their mother helped the siblings develop a love of classical music at a young age.
“In China, we have been taught that if you listen to more music when they are in your belly, they are getting smarter,” says Mom. “We have almost every famous composer’s CD.”
“It makes you smart,” young Colette adds, choosing to convey her message with a matter of fact tone instead of an ear wiggle.
If you go:
Wolfville’s annual Annapolis Valley Music Festival, featuring roughly 3,000 competitors from throughout Nova Scotia, will run from April 18 to April 29. Stars of the Festival concerts are scheduled for May 1 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. To learn more, visit www.avmf.ca.