Cover Story
Boy Wonder
Evanna Ramly | 13 Oct 2017 00:30
From a child prodigy, Tengku Irfan has blossomed into a confident young man

It all began with an electronic keyboard, a gift from a devoted father.

“At the time, I was about six or seven when I found myself fooling around with it,” recalls Tengku Ahmad Irfan Tengku Ahmad Shahrizal. “There were no expectations of where I might go but then I found myself attached to it; I was very excited by the melodies coming out of it.”

He remembers it was a Chopin waltz that he was most intrigued by at the time. “Once I clicked on that and saw the keys light up, one leading to another and myself following it – that was when I first started to enjoy the piano. My interest in writing music and conducting came after that and they all sort of melded together.”

His first performance took place about a year after he started learning music, under the watchful eye of Estelle Tan. From there, he made headlines with memorable shows such as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) Gala in 2009. It was a huge learning experience for the charming then-11-year-old, as it was his first time playing a full concerto with an orchestra.

Since then, Tengku Irfan, 19, has performed across the globe, from the US and Canada to Singapore, Brazil, Germany and Japan. Most days, he is busy honing his craft at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School, where he also attended the pre-college programme six years ago.

Born in Kuala Lumpur, he is joined by his family in the Big Apple. While he misses nasi lemak as much as the next Malaysian, his passion for music keeps him motivated – that and watching other young students pursuing music in a similar way. “Seeing people more or less the same age as me working hard is inspiring,” he shares.