13-year-old School of Music student Nathanael Koh loves cracking jokes, indulging in conversations with other students

Nathanael Koh Photo: Supplied

Nathanael Koh Photo: Supplied

13-year-old Australian National University (ANU) student Nathanael Koh has always felt a deep connection with music. He believes music is a universal language that transcends boundaries, brings people together, and has the extraordinary power to heal the soul.

“I truly believe that the profound emotions and captivating melodies that music carries have the ability to touch individuals in profound ways. I want to use music to spread love and compassion in the world and have composed two pieces on two major incidents that impacted the world – ‘HOPE’ during the COVID pandemic and ‘Prayer for Peace’ during the recent instability in Russia and Asia,” Nathanael said.

“The first composition, titled ‘HOPE’, was inspired by the global challenges we faced during the COVID pandemic. It serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unwavering belief in brighter days ahead.

“The second composition ‘Prayer for Peace’ was crafted in response to the recent instability witnessed in Russia and Asia. Through this piece, I sought to create a heartfelt expression of unity and the earnest desire for harmony and tranquility to prevail in our tumultuous world.”

Nathanael is one of the youngest students in the history of ANU. Before joining ANU, the 13-year-old student was initially concerned about the age difference between him and his classmates. However, those doubts were soon put to rest.

“Age has not been a barrier and I have been warmly embraced and supported by my peers, who have demonstrated acceptance and inclusivity throughout my time at the University. Their kindness and support have made me feel like an integral part of the vibrant ANU community, fostering an environment where individual differences are celebrated and valued,” he said.

When Nathanael is not studying, he loves cracking jokes, indulging in conversations with other students, and participating in extracurricular activities. He describes his time at ANU as “extraordinary” and one that is filled with intellectual engagement, enriching interactions, and a strong sense of community.

The young ANU student has plans to pursue his PhD at ANU by bridging multiple subject areas of Mathematics, Programming and Music after completing his Honors program in October 2023. He has started working towards it and will reach out to professors from the Mathematics and Computing departments to seek their insights in the coming months.

“By collaborating across disciplines, I aim to develop an exciting and innovative PhD proposal that will captivate the attention of the selection panel. The prospect of pursuing a PhD at ANU, a renowned institution that values intellectual exploration and fosters a culture of innovation, is both exhilarating and humbling,” Nathanael said.

Born in Singapore, Nathanael relocated to Canberra earlier this year to study Honours in the Music Composition program at the ANU School of Music. He chose to study the program as it helped him explore new artistic horizons, experiment with diverse musical styles, and refine his unique voice as a composer.

“The ANU community fosters a spirit of collaboration, where ideas are exchanged freely, and artistic growth is celebrated. I am eager to contribute to this dynamic atmosphere and learn from the talented individuals who will be my peers,” he said.

Nathanael faced initial hiccups while relocating to Canberra with his family to study at ANU. The delay in visa meant that he could not join classes until the fourth week of the semester.

“I am glad that I was able to join classes due to ANU's provision of hybrid classes. These innovative teaching methods blend in-person and online learning, and provided the flexibility I needed to adapt to my circumstances while still fully engaging in my studies,” he said.

Nathanael enjoys participating in various extracurricular activities on campus. One such involvement that holds special significance for him is being a member of the Singapore Students' Association where he connects with fellow students from his home country Singapore.

Our gatherings have been delightful occasions filled with laughter and camaraderie, often accompanied by delicious ice cream from Messina. These interactions have not only allowed me to stay connected to my roots but have also provided me with valuable insights into diverse subjects and expanded my network of friends and colleagues,” he said.

Despite offers from other universities, Nathanael decided to study at ANU due to the inclusive environment and supportive teaching faculty at the University.

“I was delighted to discover that the Head of Music, Professor Kim Cunio, embraced me into the program based solely on my ability, rather than my age. This demonstration of inclusivity and recognition of talent showcases the forward-thinking nature of ANU. The atmosphere on campus is alive with intellectual curiosity and a genuine desire to learn from one another,” Nathanael said.

Nathanael has found a sense of community and belonging at ANU. “Whether engaging in intellectual discussions, participating in extracurricular activities, or simply enjoying moments of connection with like-minded individuals, I am continuously reminded of the immense value of building relationships and embracing diverse perspectives,” he said.