This 10-year-old Syrian refugee based in Ontario is a piano prodigy
by Richard Howard
August 16, 2016
Marcel Ward taught himself to play piano as a 5-year-old in war torn Syria. Now 10, he's moved onto writing his own songs.
The challenges (and in some cases, horrors) of being a refugee are, in a word, unimaginable for those of us fortunate enough not to have to experience them. Still, we’re able to instinctually feel the strength of will at work whenever one of these individuals manages, through sheer persistence, to recapture a dream or once again follow a career path put on hold by their displacement.
Whether it’s chocolatier Assam Hadhad restarting his business in a tiny shed in Antigonish, N.S. or concert violinist Sari Alesh winning a scholarship to the Victoria Conservatory of Music, a number of these stories have popped up following the influx of Syrian refugees to countries like Canada. Like Alesh, Marcel Ward is looking to make his mark in music following his arrival in Canada but there’s one important difference: Marcel is just 10 years old.
His story is a familiar one. After an attack on Damascus in 2012, Marcus, his brother Eilia and parents Manar and Elham fled to Dubai. After relocating numerous times (including some time in the United States), the family has finally settled in Hamilton, Ontario, where it’s quickly become clear that Marcel possesses some serious talent. After teaching himself on a toy piano at age 5 and learning pieces by Mozart and Beethoven by ear, the young pianist is now a bonafide composer, racking up a collection of his own tunes. He’s also well on his way to being a certified musician; just last week he completed his level 4 Royal Conservatory of Music exam which, while not unheard of, is considerably ahead of the average 10-year-old who is likely to be tackling level 1.
By all accounts, Marcel is destined to be an artist. Not only does he have the drive, often practicing past midnight, but he also seems to have the moody-as-hell temperament of the instruments forbearers; his father noted that his late night piano sessions often occur “when he gets angry.”
Marcel provided further confirmation of the latter trait (and showed some emo cred) when explaining to the Hamilton Spectator why he prefers playing in minor keys. “I like sad songs. They make me feel happy.” Check out Marcel’s (really, really good) original composition “Leil” below.