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Practice pays off for aspiring cellist

She cannot name a single pop idol - but when you spend four hours a day training to become a world-class cellist, it is no wonder.

Tracking fame has not come easy for 14-year-old Stella Cho, who gets up at the crack of dawn to practise, spends one hour commuting to and from school, and does not go to bed until she has completed another three hours on her beloved cello.

But practice has made perfect for the dedicated teenager who defeated four other musical hopefuls to win the Texaco Young Musician of Wales 2005 title. The shy schoolgirl from South Korea puts her success down to her dad's love of classical music - and the influence of moving to Wales.

Stella, a pupil at Haberdashers' Monmouth school for girls, said: "When I was little I would listen to music with my dad. I started to learn the piano when I was five, and took up the cello when I was eight.

"When we moved to Wales my music went from strength to strength. I've become serious about becoming a world-class cellist over the past couple of years, especially after passing my grade 8 with distinction, but I don't have time to follow the pop charts."

Stella performed in the competition's final on Saturday night to a packed auditorium at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre. She said: "I'm really shy, but when I'm on stage I don't feel nervous at all. I would love to follow in the footsteps of Jacqueline du Pre."

Her school has thrown its support behind her by shortening her timetable and cutting back on her homework. Stella, who recently clinched a place with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, follows two other pupils from her school who won through to the finals of the Texaco competition.

Sarah Lee, press and marketing officer at Haberdashers' school, said: "It may sound like Stella doesn't have a minute to herself, but she still finds time to have fun with her many friends."

Simran Singh, a 14-year-old violinist from Ammanford, came second and 18-year-old flautist, Aimee de Gruchy-Lambert from Machen, came third.

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