At 16, Thomas John is the youngest Indian to clear the Associate diploma exam (ATCL) for piano conducted by Trinity College of London

Frederic Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu is a powerful piece that jumps moods and notes in lightning quick changes. When sixteen-year-old Thomas John sits at the piano to play it, his fingers bring alive all the depth and passion of the composition. A student of piano teacher Anil K. Cheriyan at Cochin CAC Academy, Thomas has recently passed Trinity College of London’s Associate diploma examination (ATCL) with distinction (88 marks of 100) thus becoming Kerala’s top scorer in his age bracket. “More importantly, he is also the youngest person to clear this examination for piano in India thus far,” says J. Sowmiyan, exam coordinator for Trinity College of London, India. Ask Thomas about his achievements though, and the quiet boy says he prefers to let the music do the talking.

Thomas began learning the piano in Class II as his parents, Johny and Shinu Issac, both professors at Cochin University, loved listening to Western classical music and encouraged their son to play. Thomas began with the Trinity syllabus, moved later to the Royal School of Music and then returned to Trinity quickly climbing through its eight Grade exams. “I found he was a student with great potential, who could pick up pieces very quickly and even memorise them after a few play-throughs,” says Anil. After his Grade VIII Trinity exam, Thomas prepared for a year for the ATCL examination and cleared it at the first attempt. The ATCL exam was graded by a Trinity examiner in Thrissur and also reviewed by a jury in London, the cumulative marks of which make the final grade.

After completing school, Thomas hopes to train in London for further diplomas and become a professional concert pianist. “I don’t have a favourite composer but Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart are those I listen to the most,” he says. Johny adds that he hopes the Western classical music scene in Kochi would grow larger to incorporate more piano recitals and concerts to encourage young musicians.

With these accolades, Thomas soon plans to participate at national piano competitions such as the annual week-long contest by Academy of Music, Pune. In the meantime, he is also preparing for the Licentiate (LTCL) diploma examinations.