Piano prodigy in perfect academic setting thanks to education choice scholarship
BY ROGER MOONEY
COOPER CITY, Florida – It began with a toy piano. Something a toddler could peck at.
Pling! Pling! Pling!
Evan Sosa did more than that. In no time at all, he was playing “Hot Cross Buns.”
“With two hands,” his father, Phillip, said. “I'm like, ‘This is not normal.’ He was barely 2.”
The toy piano quickly gave way to a keyboard, and the child’s nursery rhyme was soon replaced by Beethoven, which young Evan learned from watching YouTube videos.
Realizing their son was gifted, Phillip and Anusha searched for someone who could develop Evan’s talent. They were repeatedly turned away by music teachers who said Evan was too young for formal lessons.
Then they met Inna Maor, the founder and executive director of Academic School 4 Arts (AS4A), a private K-12 school in Cooper City. Maor, a classically trained pianist and dancer who has been teaching piano for nearly 40 years, listened to Evan play.
“He’s a genius,” Maor said. “You don’t see this often.”
AS4A is a 40-minute drive from the Sosa’s home in Miramar, but Phillip and Anusha knew it was the right academic and musical setting for their son. Evan attends the school with the help of a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship that is supported by corporate donations to Step Up For Students, which manages the scholarship.
“I think the scholarship is great,” Anusha said. “It really helped us to find the right school for him, and it allowed us the financial freedom to put him in school.”
Evan, now 6, is a third-grader at AS4A. He could be in the fourth grade, said his teacher, Vivian Aleman.
“He is excellent, excellent, excellent in everything,” Aleman said.
AS4A opened during the 2022-23 school year. There are 16 students enrolled this year, and classes are capped at six students to allow them to progress at their own pace. AS4A is modeled after the School of Stolyrsky, a renowned music school in Odesa, Ukraine where Maor trained.
In addition to the core classes, students also learn music, art, or dance, depending on their interests. The arts are treated as equal learning disciplines. Mixed in with classrooms are studios for dance and art and soundproof rooms where students learn an instrument.
“Everyone here is good at something,” Maor said.
For Evan, that is the piano. At Maor’s urging, Phillip and Anusha bought a piano so Evan could practice at home as often as possible.
“The only issue is when he wakes up at 1 in the morning and he wants to play,” Phillip said.
In addition to his time at school, Maor works privately with Evan twice a week for an hour each time.
“He really loves music,” she said. “When you love something, it drives you to learn. You don’t think of how hard it is. Also, he likes a challenge. He’s so bright I feel like I can give him more.”
Evan sat at a piano in one of the school’s music rooms on a recent afternoon. He sat on a pillow because he’s too small to reach the keys without a little help. Maor, sitting at a second piano in the room, watched as Evan played a sonatina from German composure Heinrich Lichner.
Evan loves to play in front of an audience, but it’s clear he’d rather play music than talk about it.
When asked what pieces he likes to play, he said, “All of them.”
When asked what he likes most about playing the piano, he said, “I feel happy.”
Then he happily spun around to face the keys, and soon the room was filled with a piece Lichner wrote sometime in the 1800s.
In her nearly four decades of teaching the piano, Maor said she had eight students who made a career of playing professionally. She thinks Evan can be No. 9.
“He’s a prodigy,” she said.
Evan’s musical talent caught his parents by surprise. Neither are musically inclined, so it wasn’t as if they passed this talent on to their son. But they didn’t really know just how gifted Evan was until he was playing the same Beethoven sonata that they just heard played on YouTube. They were disappointed when music teachers said he was too young to take lessons.
“We're like, ‘OK, something has to be missing here because he's taught himself Beethoven. How can you not want to talk to him?’ Anusha said. “And then we meet Inna, and she showed us a whole different world, and we were like, ‘Oh, wow.’ ”
Anusha said Evan does not “fit in the box” musically or academically. How many 3-year-olds taught themselves how to play the piano? And because he sees the world through music, she doesn’t think Evan would do well at their assigned school.
“His brain never stops,” Phillip said. “He’s always doing something, creating something.”
Evan is learning the guitar and taking tap dancing classes at school. He also takes drama classes. The idea is to expand his comfort zone as a musician and student.
“Evan is where he needs to be,” Phillip said. “We have the scholarship to thank for that.”
How far can Evan go? As far as he wants, said his parents.
There is one stipulation, though. Anusha kickstarts her morning with a steaming hot cup of Ethiopian coffee. Evan plays the piano while she savors her drink.
“I love it,” Anusha said. “I told him, ‘For the rest of your life, I don't care how old you are. You’re coming here in the mornings. This is going to be your job in the morning. When I’m having my coffee, you’re playing for me.’ ”
Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.