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An ‘arresting’ performer at the piano - Gifted beat cop to play solo show at Brooklyn Music School

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When you think of New York City Police Officers, classical piano might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But Officer Chris Yip is not your typical cop.

A patrol officer in the 88th Precinct, the Hong Kong native doubles as a piano virtuoso. And this June 7, Yip, 28, will play his first solo show at the Brooklyn Music School Playhouse (126 St. Felix Street).

Surprisingly, Yip was not a child prodigy. Rather, his piano career began relatively late in life, when he took up the instrument at 22. He said he had always been drawn to the piano, but his parents – who came to Queens when Yip was 10 – did not want to pay for lessons.

“My parents always, even now, have believed that playing the piano is a side hobby that would not get me anywhere,” remembered Yip, who was a youth counselor and teacher before becoming a cop four years ago.

A brief experiment with the trumpet in middle school ended inauspiciously as well. Yip practiced about as often as any middle schooler needing to fulfill an arts requirement. That is, never.

“I held it in my hand, I blew into the mouthpiece, but I wasn’t learning,” he remembered.

But a few years ago, Yip used his own money to spring for private lessons. The private lessons ignited in him a passion for the instrument: even after his teacher’s visa expired and she was forced to leave the country, Yip spent countless hours practicing by himself.

While walking the beat in 2004, Yip made a fortuitous discovery: the Brooklyn Music School. Shortly after stumbling upon the school, he was enrolled. It was at this point that his natural talent and work ethic merged with formal instruction to create a late blooming piano star.

“You have to think about him as a true artist – the motivation he has is artistic curiosity,” said his teacher, Valentina Nazarenko.

“He has great dexterity, but it’s not only about dexterity. It’s about how he sees and hears the music. It’s a part of his mind, like the air he’s breathing. He’s 28 right now, but I’m pretty sure he will be playing for the rest of his life.”

Yip takes a class once a week, but says he goes into school several other times during the week. He practices for two hours five days a week.

Described his affinity for the piano, the Fresh Meadows resident said:

“It’s a passion for me to be in front of the keyboard. I’ll play it in a hotel if it’s available. You put a singing voice in your head and just transfer it out through your fingers onto the piano. I just love it.”

Yip, who eventually wants to become a professional concert pianist, doesn’t think his late start with the piano represents an impediment to greatness.

“Age isn’t really something that matters to musical skills. Because I’m an adult, I can be more committed to it without being forced to practice by my parents or a teacher,” he said.

“I was reading this book of profiles of classical musicians. There were some that learned music when they were 6 or 7, but stopped when they were 10 or 11. Then, later, in adulthood, they took it up again,” he said.

Nazarenko, his teacher, concurred: “He doesn’t sound like an amateur. It’s not like you’re listening to somebody doing a hobby. He’s in a very intensive and strong professional place.”


Officer Chris Yip’s show will take place on Saturday, June 7, at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Music School Playhouse at 126 St. Felix Street, just around the corner from BAM.

Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children and students. Proceeds will benefit the Brooklyn Music School.

Yip will perform the following works from the classical period to the 20th century: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 10, No. 2; Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 Post, and Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1; and Nikolai Vilinsky’s Ballade in form of Variations.

For more information, call 718-638-5660.

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