A 9-year-old Los Altos boy took another step toward his dream of becoming a concert pianist when he placed first in his age group at the 19th annual Chopin Competition for Young Pianists last month.

Spencer Cha beat out 21 fellow pianists to claim the 9-and-under category. The San Francisco Chapter of the Chopin Foundation of the United States – a national nonprofit dedicated to recognizing talented young musicians – hosted the June 7 competition.

Spencer received a $60 cash prize and performed in the Annual Young Pianists Competition Winner Concert the next day.

This wasn’t Spencer’s first competition nor his first win. He won two Northern California School of Music competitions by the time he was 6. At 8, Spencer enrolled in the Lena Grozman Piano School in Cupertino.

The school was apprehensive about accepting Spencer at such a young age, according to his parents, Albert and Cheryl, but they insisted. The Chas said their son has been musically inclined since he was 2, and they couldn’t keep him away from the piano.

“Spencer has always been drawn to music,” Cheryl said.

“Music is my passion,” Spencer affirmed.

Grozman said she is pleased with his development and confident that her student is capable of becoming a first-rate musician with more hard work.

“I regard Spencer as a musically talented student,” she said. “He has progressed tremendously and currently plays well above his age level.”

Spencer, who attends BASIS Independent Silicon Valley School, practices piano one to three hours per day. He not only works with Grozman, but also with members of his family. He practices with his dad, who studied piano at Stanford University, and his grandmother, who received classical training in South Korea and Vienna.

“I would like to become a concert pianist like my father and grandma,” Spencer said.

He appears to be on his way, proving that practice pays off.

“To win first place in a Bay Area-wide competition is a major accomplishment for him,” his mother said. “That validates all of the time he spent practicing and preparing.”