Pianist Wesley Chu on His Prodigious Accomplishments and Performing Philosophy

By Kati Vereshaka
Kati Vereshaka
Kati Vereshaka
January 7, 2016 Updated: April 17, 2016

NEW YORK—Out of 14 talented pianists, six finalists emerged on stage at Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 2014, during the Future Stars Recital as part of New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television’s International Piano Competition. Among them was the young, yet accomplished pianist Wesley Chu who received the Outstanding Performance Award.

Born in Alberta, Canada, Chu has been playing piano since the age of 3. At age 5, he completed grades 1 to 10 of the RCM Examinations. At the age of 10, he had completed the Associate of The Royal Conservatory (ARCT) diploma, making him the youngest pianist to ever achieve this.

Among his many achievements, Chu played his own composition at age 5 for Queen Elizabeth II and the Prime Minster of Canada, in Ottawa. And in 1999, he performed his own choral concerto composition “Christmas in Bethlehem” with orchestra and choir, inside the Vatican City in Rome, for Pope John Paul II.

Wesley Chu wrote to the Epoch Times about his philosophy on performing and his future aspirations.

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

I started learning the piano from my mother at age 3. … It seemed like just another toy, a source of endless fun.
— Wesley Chu, pianist

Epoch Times: At what age did you start playing the piano? Did you love it straight away?

Wesley Chu: I starting learning the piano from my mother at the age of 3. I was so young and impressionable that it seemed like just another toy, a source of endless fun for my life. I have striven to maintain that level of spontaneous passion and enjoyment from creating music, whether it be at the piano or elsewhere.

Epoch Times: How long do you practice every day?

Mr. Chu: Practicing time varies from day to day depending on need and availability of resources. I average four to five hours daily, sometimes less if the need is less or if resources are scarce, and sometimes far more if need is great. Twenty hours is my record maximum for one day, though I felt somewhat sick afterward.

Epoch Times: What made you decide to participate in the NTD competition?

Mr. Chu: I heard about the NTD TV competition from a friend in New York.

Epoch Times: At what stage did you start entering competitions? What is your advice to pianists about entering in competitions?

Mr. Chu: I was participating in small local competitions from my hometown of Calgary, AB, Canada, almost as soon as I started learning. For artists entering any kind of competitive arena, I suggest that they maintain an open mind. I don’t believe that competitions should in any way impede their passion and drive to develop and mature their art. Instead, I try and suggest that others try to view them as milestones, as performance and presentation opportunities for one’s own betterment rather than a situation in purely which your worth is measured against others.

Epoch Times: What is the most important thing when you are playing in a competition?

Mr. Chu: When I perform in any circumstance, competitive or otherwise, it is the most important that I express my wishes and feelings about my art as efficiently and accessibly as possible to my audience. If I fare poorly in a competition due to sincerity, then it wasn’t for me. But if I fare well in a competition having been insincere, then any victory is hollow. I am very fortunate in most competitions and performances to have reached at least a few people with my art, and that is triumph enough.

Epoch Times: What do you consider to be the hardest piano piece to play, or the hardest composer to play?

Mr. Chu: I have struggled with different types and genres of music my entire life, and it has never been consistent. This is good, because it means I am developing, and encountering different obstacles at different stages of my growth. In addition, each composer presents his or her own challenges when it comes to performance and study. Anything I can say about difficulty today may change tomorrow!

Epoch Times: Who are your favorite composers and why?

Mr. Chu: I have a special affinity with composers like Prokofiev, who have a certain flair to their music that I can relate to in an indescribable way. It is my goal to form a deep and meaningful relationship with each and all composers I encounter, hopefully to the same level.

Epoch Times: What is the highest achievement you are aiming for in your musical career?

Mr. Chu: It has always been the greatest pleasure and satisfaction to know that my music has brought joy and emotion to listeners. The continuation of that is a lifelong goal.

Wesley Chu is currently pursuing a Graduate Diploma at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, studying under the tutelage of world-renowned teacher and performer Alexander Korsantia.

2016 NTD International Piano Competition  

The 4th NTD International Piano Competition will be taking place Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2016. The competition will consist of one qualification round and three separate live competition rounds: Preliminary, Semifinal, and Final. Contestants from all around the world are welcome to apply. Applications will be accepted this fall.

The competition’s mission is to revive and promote the best of Eastern and Western traditional culture.