Jenks 9-year-old earns 3rd place at American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition

Kayla Cao is only 9 years old has already earned international recognition for her talent.

The third-grader at Jenks Southeast Elementary recently won third place in the 2013 American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition.

Last month, she was selected to play at Carnegie Hall in New York and showcase her musical ability.

Kayla has been playing the piano since she was 4 years old.

"Whenever I was bored, I would love to listen to music, and my siblings would always play piano, so I was always surrounded by piano playing," she said.

After discovering her love for music, Kayla was enrolled in Tulsa's Barthelmes Conservatory (The Tulsa Conservatory).

"When I met Kayla, she had a little bit of knowledge how to play piano and even a little bit of violin," said Tatyana Lantos, Kayla's teacher and head of the piano department at the conservatory.

In 2010, Kayla was admitted on a full scholarship.

"When she joined the scholarship program here at the conservatory, we started meeting twice a week," Lantos continued. "It is a very serious, rigorous program here that we have offer. Now she has succeeded so much and accomplished so much in here music education."

Kayla practices a minimum of three hours each day. But Kayla doesn't see practicing as a chore.

"I love how it can give me so much joy inside no matter how much joy I already have."

Kayla, who says she prefers to play happy music, selected Haydn's Sonata in D Major to perform at Carnegie Hall.

"Sometimes I like sad songs, but mostly, I like happy songs and so we always pick those."

Kayla has hopes of returning to the competition next year and earning first place.

"I did it last year, but this this year I was more prepared than last year because I had more experience."

Win or lose, Kayla said playing the piano is something that makes her happy.

"I love it because it is so exciting and it gives me lots of joy inside...I want to play more and more."

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