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Merit Student Named Lang Lang Scholar

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Every two years, the Lang Lang International Music Foundation considers hundreds of the world’s best young pianists ages 6-16 for enrollment in the Foundation’s Young Scholars Program. Of the many who applied in 2019, only 11 pianists were chosen for the Program’s 2020-2022 coveted scholarship. One of these young musicians is Joshua Mhoon, a 16-year-old student from the Merit School of Music’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory.

When Josh was eight years old, his parents worried he was falling behind in math. Josh’s mother knew that music lessons could have a tremendous impact on her son’s math skills so she encouraged Josh to pick up an instrument, thinking and hoping it would make a difference. Josh’s father Jun, a music producer and drummer who has toured with the Staple Singers, wasn’t as convinced. “I was reluctant,” he joked. “I’m a musician, and I didn’t want any more musicians in the house.”

 Luckily, Jun changed his mind. Josh was a preternaturally gifted musician – that much was clear when just a few minutes into his first piano lesson, Josh’s teacher turned to his parents and asked how long their son had been playing the piano. “He’s never played piano before,” said Jun. “We don’t even have a piano in the house!”

Recognizing their son’s  tremendous potential, the Mhoons encouraged Josh to apply to Merit School of Music’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory, the competitive tuition-free music program in Chicago’s West Loop that provides driven young musicians with access to life-changing mentorship, instruction, ensemble experience, and masterclasses with world-renowned musicians. Most of Joshua’s peers in Merit’s Conservatory had been practicing for years. Josh had been playing the piano for just a few months and was already winning city and statewide competitions. 

 As he immersed himself in theory and technique classes at Merit’s weekend Conservatory, Josh’s grades started to pick up. Music breathed new life into math class, and suddenly Josh was excelling in school. Realizing their son learned best when challenged and engaged, Josh’s parents enrolled him in a school for intellectually gifted children.

Today, Josh has been a student at Merit’s Conservatory for eight years and is an integral part of the school’s vibrant community of young musicians. “Joshua came to Merit’s Conservatory as a little boy. He was always intuitively musical and loved performing in front of an audience,” says Mio Isoda-Hagle, one of Josh’s teachers at Merit. “Now he has matured to be a serious – but fun-loving –  young artist. We are so proud of him becoming a Lang Lang Young Scholar.”

Though he’s only in the 11th grade, Josh’s talent has already presented performance opportunities few could dream of. He’s performed at mayoral inaugurations, opened for Ramsey Lewis, and been featured on ABC, WTTW, and WFMT. In 2015, Josh was one of 10 children selected to participate in Lang Lang’s Allianz Junior Music Camp in Vienna. Moved by this experience and inspired by time spent touring in Europe and Japan, Josh applied to the Young Scholars Program  to experience more moments of cultural exchange . In his interview with the Foundation, Josh said “I would love to earn a place in the Young Scholars community so I could give back to others while making long-lasting friendships with other fantastic pianists and getting a chance to perform for others around the world.” Josh also now has the opportunity to use his talents to help those in need. Through the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s Play It Forward initiative, Josh will perform in hospitals, shelters, and community centers throughout Chicago.

The Lang Lang International Foundation and the Merit School of Music share a belief that “all children should have access to a music education, regardless of their background.” Chicagoland student musicians can apply to audition for Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory to receive tuition-free access to mentorship, ensemble experience, and a supportive community of young musicians and teachers. Audition materials will be available on February 1st at www.meritmusic.org/audition.