Playing the piano wasn't Stanley Cao's idea, but the payoff will be a performance at Carnegie Hall next month.
The Deer Run Elementary School fifth-grader has been playing the piano for about five years and won the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall after taking the bronze medal in the seventh skill level at the World Piano Competition's Young Artist Awards over the summer.
According to Cao, his parents got him started on piano lessons.
"I came back from kindergarten and a piano was there," he said. "One day a piano appeared."
Cao practices about six days a week and takes lessons from Amy Laurence of Dublin once a week. For Cao, playing is about the music.
"I like to enjoy the music," he said.
The World Piano Competition in Cincinnati over the summer was Cao's second shot at the contest.
Young musicians from all over the world can apply for the competition by sending in a recording. At the contest, musicians vie for a shot to be one of the semifinalists, Cao said, and then finalists.
When Cao's name was posted among this year's finalists, his family, including his father, Jiming Cao, and mother, Yaling Bai, didn't believe it.
"My mom didn't believe it when we saw my name," he said. "We waited 24 hours and checked it again."
As part of the competition, Cao played a sonata by Hayden that took him about a year to memorize. His performance won him the bronze medal and a chance to perform as a soloist at Carnegie Hall Oct. 27.
"I feel a little nervous," he said of the prospect of performing at Carnegie Hall.
Nerves aren't ruining Cao's first trip to Carnegie Hall, though.
"I'd say I felt excited because I have a chance to play on their piano," he said.
Cao is a fan of classical music and plans to pick up another instrument soon.
"We've been trying to decide between violin and cello," he said.
Music isn't his only interest, though.
"I like math and chess," he said.
His father helped start the chess club at Deer Run Elementary, although Cao has since graduated from it. He attends chess tournaments in his spare time.
Cao also plays soccer in the fall and tennis year-round. At school, he enjoys math and LEAP science classes.