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Meet 14-year-old Guatemalan pianist and child prodigy Yahaira Tubac

When my fingers began to strike the keys of the piano, it felt like thunder and lightning in the middle of the night. Every sound transported me to that place and the notes became words, speaking on my behalf. The world lit up around me and the rumbling applause felt like magic.

  • 5 months ago
  • October 9, 2023
7 min read
Yahaira Tubac sits at her piano in her home in Guatemala. At 14 years old, she is considered a child prodigy, though she prefers to believe that her accomplishments come through hard work and dedication. Yahaira Tubac sits at her piano in her home in Guatemala. At 14 years old, she is considered a child prodigy, though she prefers to believe that her accomplishments come through hard work and dedication. | Photo courtesy of the Tubac family
Yahaira Tubac, 14, was born on October 6, 2009 and lives in San Juan Sacatepéquez, Guatemalan. She is considered a child prodigy in piano.
Interview Subject
Yahaira Tubac, 14, was born on October 6, 2009 and lives in San Juan Sacatepéquez, Guatemalan. She hails from the Kaqchikel enthic group and began her schooling at the Community of Zet. She began playing the piano at two years old and her parents enrolled her instruction under the Suzuki method. By four, she was already playing concerts. She stands out nationally and internationally for her musical achievements, captivating audiences, and is often referred to as a child prodigy.
Background Information
According to the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Shinichi Suzuki was a violinist, educator, philosopher, and philanthropist born in 1898. He observed that children everywhere learned to speak their native language with ease and to apply the principles of language acquisition to music learning, calling his method the mother tongue approach. The ideas of parental responsibility, loving encouragement, and constant repetition are some special features of the Suzuki method. In this method, parents attend lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. Starting early, listening to music every day, and constant repetition remain critical. The method also highlights sincere encouragement and supporting peers.

SAN JUAN SACATEPÉQUEZ, Guatemala ꟷ I started listening to music when I was still in the womb. When my father Pedro Tubac touched my mother’s belly and felt no movement, he became worried, so he consulted with experts. They told him to attempt early stimulation through the Mozart method.

A musician by vocation, he embraced the recommendation and began placing a sound player near my mother’s belly. Like magic, I started to move. He often played piano during my mother’s pregnancy as well. When the notes danced from underneath his fingertips, I responded.

After my mother gave birth, music surrounded me everywhere. She played the violin as I sat on my father’s lap while he stroked the piano keys. One day, as I sat alone on the piano bench, I touched the ivories for the first time on my own. A sense of magic filled my body and the music spoke before I did. I was born to live through music; in fact, it speaks for me.

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Child piano prodigy learns through the Suzuki method at two years old, gives first performance at four

At two and a half years old, my parents enrolled me in the children’s art center at the World Vision Program in Guatemala. Soon, my fingers formed melodies. My parents engaged me in the Suzuki method created by the Japanese musician and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki, for the express purpose of teaching children music.

My first teacher, the Guatemalan pianist Zoila Luz García, seemed astounded when she first heard me play. “Your talent will make you an internationally famous piano player,” she said. I soon found myself playing in many venues, from the simplest of auditoriums to the greatest of music halls. When my little piano became insufficient for my fingers, I received a professionally sized instrument, unleashing my love for music.

Dressed up in the multicolored costumes prominent in San Juan Sacatepéquez, I played with great skill at my piano recitals. Leading up to my first public performance at four years old, I felt so excited, my body vibrated. Then, the day of the concert, I woke up with a fever. “It is better not to play,” my parents told me, and I began to cry. “Please,” I begged. “Take me anyway.” Luckily, they agreed.

After finishing my piece, the crowd fell silent before erupting in applause. Some of the people appeared to cry. As their love and respect floated through the air, reaching me on the stage, I felt like I could fly. When my first performance went viral on social media, it created opportunities for interviews and demonstrations. I remember feeling very nervous, but all the discomfort disappeared when I began to play.

I flashed a smile and the crowd erupted in applause

For me, music opens a spiritual dimension far different from the material world, and my efforts lead to great rewards. Every day, I feel grateful to God, the people in my path who provide support, and for every invitation I receive to play.

One of the most stunning recitals I remember took place in the Colón Theater in Buenos Aires. The moment I entered the room of this gorgeous venue, people looked on in amazement. A strange expression painted their faces, seeing a child on the stage.

I looked out at the vast audience, feeling completely serene, and offered them a huge child-like smile. Their applause burst forth like thunder. I lowered my head, extending the greeting for a few moments longer, and when I looked out at them again, I felt a little embarrassed.

I quickly sat down at the piano, the tips of my toes barely touching the ground, and played the first notes of Hummel’s Scottish Dance; I finished with a beautiful version of Poruna Cabeza. After the final note echoed through the auditorium, the audience graced me with a standing ovation, clapping and shouting for many minutes. An intense excitement poured through my body and a chill ran down my spine like an energy bolt, moving me to tears.

From Guatemala to America, young piano player lights up her audiences

A few years ago, the opportunity came to travel to Washington, D.C. and see the capitol of the United States of America. My concert at the Organization of American States (OAS) commemorated the Inter-American Week of Indigenous Peoples. Sharing my talent at a serious event felt like the experience of a lifetime. I met Guatemalans living in America and gave several concerts. As a classical pianist, in addition to the more emblematic songs I play, I included national songs from Guatemala.

Watching the people looking back at me, I paused in silence before starting to play. When my fingers began to strike the keys of the piano, it felt like thunder and lightning in the middle of the night. Every sound transported me to that place and the notes became words, speaking on my behalf. The world lit up around me and the rumbling applause felt like magic.

Yahaira Tubac started playing piano at two and gave her first concert at four, learning through the famed Suzuki method. | Photo courtesy of Tubac family

I returned to America last year for another concert. When I boarded the airplane to California, a sense of love and joy filled my heart. Sitting in my seat on the plane, I reviewed my songs in my mind. The music I imagined floated amidst the clouds outside my window. On the day of my event, I played at the famous Levitt Pavilion on a warm July afternoon. The space reverberates all summer long with live music.

My performance brought forth people of diverse cultures who live throughout American cities. Moments before I began, a slight tension set in and my hands began to sweat, but the shouts of joy and the kind gaze of the crowd gave me the peace I needed to calm down. I took a long, deep breath and rested my hands on the keys. From the first note, I entered my own unique world where everything bursts forth from the music, and I smiled.

Young pianist has big dreams for her future

People often ask what my life is like. Each day, I wake up, eat breakfast, and go to school. At lunchtime I come home and engage in three rehearsals per day. After rehearsal, I do my schoolwork and when time allows, I watch television or draw. Although I am young, discipline remains essential to my development as a pianist. My life differs from that of my friends.

In addition, I often play alongside my brother Pedro Eduardo. Though younger than me, he plays the violin with the same discipline and sacrifice with which I play the piano. Our parents support us unconditionally.

At 14 years old, I feel great pride to have a career in music. While people often call me a child prodigy, I do not identify with that title. I attribute my success to the effort I invest and the natural flow of my musical ability. Living with my family in San Juan Sacatepéquez, every investment I make into my passion presents incredible rewards. While I often must refuse invitations from friends, I consider it a worthy sacrifice.

Someday I want to earn a degree in music, become a professional pianist and composer, and conduct orchestras. For this, I must diligently continue my training. I remain in a constant search for opportunities and my biggest dream is to earn a scholarship to the international conservatory. As I approach my adolescence, I feel as though my feet are firmly planted on the ground.

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Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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