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Washington Heights roots keep precocious pianist grounded

8-year-old pianist wins Little Mozarts International Competition
8-year-old pianist wins Little Mozarts International Competition 02:23

NEW YORK -- A precocious pianist plans to prove how classical music training can create a future leader.

Chloe Cantu's name gained international acclaim this year, but her family keeps her grounded with her Washington Heights roots, CBS2's Jessi Mitchell reported Monday.

The 8-year-old looks right at home playing the baby grand piano. For her first-ever competition in May, Chloe selected Bach's "Invention No. 4 in D Minor," her favorite song to play.

"It's just so melodic and beautiful," Chloe said.

She brought home first place in the 7-9 age group in the 2022 Little Mozarts International Crescendo Competition at Carnegie Hall.

"At first I was frozen," Chloe said, "and then I actually got into it. Then it was actually kind of fun, but I was still going nuts inside my head."

She admitted she still battles stage fright, but found a way to cope.

"Mostly I think about daddy and how he believes in me," Chloe said.

Jose Cantu once performed as a professional guitarist. He let his daughter play at the keyboard not long after she started wiggling her fingers.

"This is fun, I'm going to get used to this!" Chloe remembered thinking.

The pair practiced together, until Chloe grew ready for professional lessons.

"I wanted to be really good, so I can be just like him," she said.

"I really wanted her to kind of show me that this was something that she wanted to do," her father added, "because at the end of the day, what's important to me is that she's happy."

Cantu left his professional music career 26 years ago when he helped develop the Arts program at P.S. 004, The Duke Ellington School, in his home neighborhood of Washington Heights.

"You have families that are struggling," he said, "and they cannot afford to put their children in art-based programs or in after-school programs."

Extracurricular activities at the school receive support from the Community League of the Heights, giving students enrichment that translates throughout their lives.

"It rescues a lot of children that are having social and emotional traumas," explained Cantu. "It opens up their cognition to look at reading and math in a different light."

He continued, "If it works for my students after all these years, then of course I'm going to apply it with my own daughter."

This summer, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth accepted Chloe after she scored in the 99th percentile in national reading and math tests. Designed to bring together the brightest minds, this honor shows Chloe and her parents the future can only get brighter.

"We went through infertility for six years," Cantu admitted, "and I can tell you, it's been a daily blessing for me."

Her father stops short of calling Chloe a prodigy, but she is already preparing for her next appearance on the main stage of Carnegie Hall.

In addition to arts and after-school programming throughout the school year, the Community League of the Heights also operates summer camp happening now at The Duke Ellington School.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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