Thai Thi Lien started playing the piano when she was 4. At the age of 100, she still plays music every day.
Lien was born in Sai Gon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1918 and gave her first public piano performance when she was 16 years old.
In 1945, Lien studied in France, then moved Prague, in what is now capital of the Czech Republic, and became the first Vietnamese to earn a university degree at the prestigious Prague Academy of Music.
In 1951, Lien returned to Vietnam and joined the resistance against the French colonialists. 5 years later, she and 7 other artists established the Vietnam Music School (now the Vietnam National Academy of Music) and headed the Piano Department until she retired in 1977.
Professor Le Anh Tuan, Head of the Vietnam National Academy of Music, said “After graduating from the music school in Prague, Ms. Lien compiled a curriculum for the piano and that was the first piano teaching document in Vietnam. Lien wrote music for the piano mostly based on folk melodies”.
During the war, the school was evacuated but Lien was consistent in her teaching. It was Lien who inspired and developed a great love of music in her children.
Professor Tran Thu Ha, Lien’s daughter, said “Despite the proximity of death and life during the war, the music of Chopin and Beethoven was still heard in the village of Xuan Phu, Bac Giang province. By day, we had to watch for enemy airplanes. We practiced the piano at night”.
Thai Thi Lien was the mother and first teacher of People’s Artists Tran Thu Ha and Dang Thai Son. Dang Thai Son was the first Asian artist to win first prize at the Concours Chopin. And Tran Thu Ha followed her family tradition and became head of the Vietnam National Academy of Music.
Despite her age, Lien still performs at major events at the Vietnam Academy of Music. Lien says what made her happiest was that her children followed in her musical footsteps: “Realizing that Dang Thai Son had an aptitude for music, I challenged him with difficult lessons. I also gave him honest critiques to make him better”.