Growing up, Fox Chapel Area junior Lawrence Liu only had one CD to listen to – “Essentials” by Michael Jackson.
This album featured Jackson’s top hits, from “ABC” to “Beat It,” and was the starting point for Liu’s musical accomplishments.
The teenager recently won top prizes in several international piano competitions, including:
– Grand Prize winner of the Pittsburgh International Piano Competition, receiving a fully paid trip to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York in late 2022.
– First prize winner, Suzanne Culley Virtual Competition and Festival, with an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall in June 2022.
– Platinum Medal, Quebec Piano Competition, winning the best pianist of his age group internationally.
– First prize winner, Muse International Piano Competition.
“I started playing the piano for a rather unconventional reason – Michael Jackson was my childhood idol,” Liu said.
“I started learning music by singing.”
Liu’s parents thought learning to play an instrument would be more holistic, so he chose the piano.
He was enrolled in the preparatory school of music at Carnegie Mellon University where Liu learned the basics of music theory at an early age.
He studied with teacher Tanya Gelman for over a decade.
“It was this knowledge that became a gateway to my current passion for classical piano repertoire,” Liu said.
Once he started his piano studies, Liu didn’t have time to nurture his passion for singing. He did, however, learn to play the flute competitively.
Although he devotes much of his time to the piano, Liu remains busy with school activities which include the high school jazz band, pit orchestra, marching band, and choir.
Liu was selected by audition to perform with the 2021 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 1 Honors Band.
He is also the captain of Fox Chapel Boy’s fencing team. Liu has applied his sports expertise to a project titled “A Novel Machine Learning Approach to Fencing Analysis”.
He has developed an app that trains users, many of whom are stuck at home during the pandemic, through fencing moves.
For his work, Liu was chosen as the district’s first-place winner at the virtual 87th Annual Meeting of Region 7 of the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science.
Liu has also received numerous musical accolades over the years: he was the winner of the 2012 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati and winner of the 2014 Duquesne Piano Competition.
Next, Liu and Gelman think about which competitions to enter in 2022.
He has devoted so much time to his piano training that Liu appreciates recent accomplishments as proof that hard work pays off.
“Throughout covid and online schooling I had a lot of free time, so I spent all my time perfecting the repertoire I had,” he said. “That was probably the most I’ve ever practiced!” I was really worried that my whole practice would go to waste, but these rewards really eased my fears.
Although he cites music as the most important influence in his life, his focus after high school will be on computers.
“I really love how applicable computer science is in almost every area of real life, and I would love to have an education focused on that,” he said.
“As for music, I still want to keep it in my life, so I plan to play the piano recreationally in college and do some performances from time to time.”
He said a “side hustle” could include backing choirs or other productions.
It was an idea born out of his recent appearance at the Fox Chapel Choir’s winter performance.
“I really enjoyed the experience,” he said. “It would be absolutely amazing to be able to continue accompanying ensembles in college.”