Former Sugar Land Resident Wins Prestigious Piano Festival In India

A remarkable young pianist who used to live in Sugar Land has recently been awarded a top prize in India's most prestigious piano festival. This middle-schooler became interested in piano by listening to the radio here in Houston.

That’s 11-year-old Aditya Deshpande playing the best piece from the competition in India called MusiQuest, the country’s only national level piano festival. Judges from the U.S., Canada and England picked Aditya as the “advanced first place” winner.

“When my name was called, it was very surreal. So I thought, was it someone different? I thought by accident my name was called out.”

Deshpande was the youngest pianist in the competition and has been playing for less than five years. He was up against others more than twice his age — the second place winner started playing 14 years ago. Roxana Anklesaria-Doctor is his teacher in the city of Pune, a few hours from Mumbai. She says Aditya has a “God-given” talent.

“I was quite amazed. He can literally read anything at site. I think he as a special gift, and that is called audiation. He’s actually able to hear the note on the page before he even lays a finger on the piano.”

Aditya is in 6th grade. His family used to live in Sugar Land. His father is an engineer and works for Schlumberger. His mother Swati says they discovered their son’s talent while living here.

“We would listen to KUHF in Houston when we were there, and if there were any piano pieces that were played, I would ask him, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you could play that?’ And he would just try it out and he would be able to play it. I was so amazed, because he used to play beginner pieces and suddenly he started playing much more advanced pieces and I asked his teacher then if he could start teaching him more challenging pieces and that’s how it all started.”

Aditya says he wasn’t particularly attached to the piano when he moved to Pune two years ago. Since then he says playing has become a much bigger part of his life. He says he loses himself in his music when he plays.

“When I start playing, everything else just goes from my mind and I feel very free when I play the piano.”

Even though Aditya is a boy of few words, his teacher thinks she can hear him a little better when he plays.

“He’s a very quiet person, but he talks through the instrument.”

Listen to Aditya Deshpande play


Reporting by Ashley DeJean and voiced by Laurie Johnson.