Sussex pianist, 11, performs around the world ... 15 months after first lesson

An 11-year-old Sussex schoolgirl who sat down to play the piano for the first time 15 months ago is now being sent invitations to play at workshops and concerts around the world after being spotted by a staff member in a piano shop.

Remarkable talent: Talee Vergel de Dios
Remarkable talent: Talee Vergel de Dios

Talee Vergel de Dios, from Uckfield, had never played a musical instrument before January 2018 - and neither of her parents play.

But the Lewes Old Grammar School pupil took to it so quickly that when she started playing on a grand piano at the Orlando Steinway Piano Gallery, while on holiday visiting her grandmother Adelita in America, shoppers and staff were stunned by her ability.

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The manager asked her age and how long she had been playing and was so impressed that he asked her to get involved with Steinway promotions.

When parents Helen and Paul explained they lived in the UK, he advised them to enrol her in the All Steinway piano camp which is held annually at the University of Central Florida Performing Arts School. She is now set to attend the camp this June.

Not long afterwards, Talee’s grandmother, who is from the Phillipines, was watching the world famous pianist Raul Sunico play at an event at the Steinway boutique in Manila and showed the manager clips of Talee playing Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu.

Stunned at her ability at such a young age, he asked her to join the Steinway Youth competition in Manila, where she will compete in May next year.

Paul said: “Talee used to watch her grandmother play and when she was 10 told us that she would really like to start taking lessons. Very soon, she was racing ahead and now she surprises us on a weekly basis. She is so passionate about playing.

“We have just been absolutely flabbergasted by her ability – especially since neither of us can play a note! Her grandmother plays just for pleasure but we could never have imagined Talee would develop such a skill and love for music.

“She has only just started taking grades but races through the music and scales – she takes one every couple of months now and always gets distinctions.”

Talee, who practises for two hours every day after school, added: “There’s something about sitting down and playing that I just love. It helps me express my feelings and can change my mood – especially when I play Chopin who is 100 per cent my favourite composer.

“I sometimes feel sad that I didn’t start playing sooner because it makes me feel so happy.”

Talee’s latest invitation to play has come from the well-known keyboard museum turned piano school Finchcocks in Kent. The schoolgirl and her parents visited the house in Goudhurst to look at the centuries-old instruments and when she played on one of them, stunned owners Richard and Katrina Burnett immediately invited her to come back and perform this July.

Her father added: “We still can’t quite believe all this has happened in such a short space of time. We could never have guessed that when she took her first lesson last January she would be performing on classic pianos to audiences here and abroad just over a year later.”