Four-year-old piano prodigy denied Carnegie Hall debut because she can’t get a Covid vaccine

6 September 2021, 17:15

Brigitte Xie, 4, plays piano at piano teacher Felicia Feng Zhang's home in Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S. July 31, 2021.
Brigitte Xie, 4, plays piano at piano teacher Felicia Feng Zhang's home in Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S. July 31, 2021. Picture: Alamy

By Rosie Pentreath

Pianist Brigitte Xie can’t become the youngest person ever to perform at the iconic New York venue – because she’s too young to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Four-year-old piano prodigy Brigitte Xie can’t make her historic Carnegie Hall debut, because she’s too young to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Xie, who at the astonishing age of three won Elite International Music Competition’s first prize which is the opportunity to play in the hallowed hall, is currently eight years the junior of the youngest person allowed to access a COVID-19 vaccine in the US. And Carnegie Hall’s current policy is that all performers and public visitors must be vaccinated to attend the venue.

“We have developed – and will continue to develop – a variety of safety protocols for audiences, artists, visitors, staff, and volunteers,” Carnegie Hall writes on its website.

“First and foremost, everyone coming to Carnegie Hall will need to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization in order to enter the building.”

Read more: All-Black classical symphony orchestra to play Carnegie Hall for first time in its 130-year history

Following her competition success, Xie was due to perform at Carnegie next month (November) as part of the American Protégé International Music Talent Competition.

Sadly, she’s too young to make history for being young. It hasn’t dampened her spirits too much, though.

“She doesn’t know much to be honest,” Brigitte’s Mum, Nicole Sun, has said. “I tell her ‘yeah baby you won the prize’ and she was like ‘ok, can we go to Disney store now?’”

Young Brigitte, who is from Ridgefield in Connecticut, only started learning the piano six months before winning her Carnegie Hall opportunity.

Tao Xie, Brigitte’s father, explains, “We tried to keep her entertained [and] she started playing a little bit while she was stuck at home during the pandemic. I was surprised at how quickly she got good… It was amazing.”

“She is really exceptional,” Xie’s piano teacher Felicia Feng Zhang has said. “She listens so well. When I demonstrate, she really watches what I did and imitates well.”

Read more: 10 videos of astonishing child prodigies

“After demonstrating a strong interest in music, Brigitte began her piano study at the age of three with top national piano educator Felicia Feng Zhang of Greenwich,” Nicole Sun writes of her daughter, on YouTube.

“Brigitte enjoys taking on new challenges and learning new piano pieces. She plays piano joyfully and only after three months of study with Ms. Zhang, Brigitte began to participate in different reputable piano competitions.”

Brigitte had some delightful Mozart planned for Carnegie. Unfortunately, due to Hall’s current requirement that all performers have COVID-19 vaccines, Xie’s performance is being postponed until 2022.

Read more: Watch a whole ensemble of child prodigies play Elgar’s Cello Concerto

“She doesn’t even know what Carnegie Hall is but I tell her ‘you’re going to perform in front of many people’ and she seemed excited because she likes performing,” mum Nicole says.

“She doesn't really know what to do in the future. As a parent I'm still open to everything, I don't tell her that she must be a pianist, I'm still open and whatever she wants to be is fine.”

For now, the pandemic may be holding the young prodigy back, but if it weren’t for lockdown we may never have heard her incredible music in the first place. For that, we can remain thankful.