Ahfat has been on the local Young Musicians Foundation roster for two years. It's an organization that chooses its roster members through audition and supports them with grants to cover extra fees for summer festivals and training and other needs. He recently performed in a YMF showcase concert at the Newman Center. “It allows me to experience without financial worries,” he says in praise of YMF.
He attended Grandview Hugh School, and every Sunday, he went to Greeley for a lesson with Dr. Lei Weng, a UNC faculty member who encouraged the young musician as he began his journey. “He really took me to the next level,” Ahfat said.
In March 2012, he sent an audition DVD to the Juilliard School, a performing arts conservatory, located at the Lincoln Center in New York City, and waited for a response — the invitation to come to New York for a live audition.
The acceptance arrived and he says his lifestyle changed after he started at Juilliard. He lived in a dorm the first two years, attended classes, gave solo performances, and won a concerto competition that led to a performance of Barber's Piano Concerto, Op. 38, with the Julliard Orchestra in the Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center.
He is excited at the prospect of sharing a Manhattan apartment for the coming school year and talks about his future: “It's always open-ended, especially in the classic music industry. I definitely want to be performing … I love being onstage so much. I love the rapport between the audience and the performer — I can just let go.”
He says the past two to four years have meant he learned to have more fun with music. The curriculum at Juilliard is flexible and can shape an artist as he wants to grow. “It's important to identify what you want to do — to work on your strengths. The faculty is amazing,” he adds.
He studies under the guidance of Mr. Choong-Mo Kang at Julliard and was a Fellow at the 2014 Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara this summer — one of eight pianists selected worldwide.
As he returns to New York for his junior year, he says it's time to add some new music to his repertoire — “This is the time.”