A young Nova Scotia pianist takes a big step

Thirteeen-year-old composer and pianist Madelyn Nielsen is joining the 2016 Tour of the Golden Key Festival in Vienna from August 2 to 8. The annual musical event intended to inspire student musicians.
Nielsen earned her position on the tour by winning third place in the Junior—International Category with her original piano composition, A Winter’s Night.
The Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia resident began taking piano lessons after her grandmother gave the family an old piano and it didn’t take long before she discovered that music is a great medium for self-expression. Now, she’s in Grade 5 of the Royal Conservatory of Music program. She started composing music when she was nine.
“My piano teacher holds this annual thing where she gets all the kids in her studio to compose a piece,” says Nielsen. “I did it the first year I took lessons. It obviously wasn’t that great, it was about a polar bear or something, but I liked it a lot and so I kept doing it.”
Four years later, composition seems to come naturally to her.
“I wrote it in the winter, which is why it’s called A Winter’s Night. I was writing it when it was snowing outside, and I really felt it like it was a winter’s night,” she says. “And when I’m composing, it feels like it’s not me who’s writing, really, it just kind of comes. It sounds kind of weird but it’s true.”
According to Nielsen, the experience of finding her name on the list of winners was surreal, but now she’s just looking forward to the experience of sharing her work on an international stage, getting to visit Mozart’s birthplace, and getting to meet the other winners. But more than anything, she wants to be an inspiration to others.
“I just want people to know that someone who is so ordinary, and from a little small town in Grand Desert, Nova Scotia, can do amazing things like compose pieces like this,” says Neilsen. “And they can go to Vienna too, so they should never give up on their dreams.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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