Young pianist making her mark on Peninsula

Fifteen-year-old pianist Gloria Chu will be performing at Five Corners Bistro later this month. - Brian Giebelhaus photo
Fifteen-year-old pianist Gloria Chu will be performing at Five Corners Bistro later this month.
— image credit: Brian Giebelhaus photo

Gloria Chu is a quiet but normal teen, who particularly enjoys swimming – she competes for her school, Earl Marriott Secondary – and going out to the movies with family and friends.

An only child, she gets good marks in school (her favourite subjects are Math, Spanish and English) but she might usually pass unnoticed with the rest of the Grade 10 students – that is, until she sits down at a piano to play works by classical masters such as Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.

Her dazzling technique and attention to expression make it easy to see why she has been a recipient of Peninsula Arts Foundation scholarships for five years and has been featured in three of the organization’s Showcase concerts.

That has led to an invitation from foundation president Gloria Clinker to play at her son Paul’s Five Corners Bistro on Nov. 26, part of an ongoing series of afternoon concerts highlighting young performers on the Peninsula. It’s the beginning of even greater recognition for the pianist in her community.

Even those of her contemporaries who’ve seen Chu accompany singers at the school’s Remembrance assembly for the last two years may not realize the full scope of her accomplishments.

A gold medal winner every year in her class at the Fraser Valley Music Festival, Chu has already gained her ARCT performance certificate and is just one harmony and counterpoint exam away from gaining her ARCT teachers’ certificate.

Since she writes that in December, the precocious Chu, still only 15, will have reached this high level of achievement all before her 16th birthday, in January. And she’s done it all in less than 10 years.

“I officially started to learn when I was six,” said the Beijing-born Chu, who came to Canada when she was four.

“When I was in China, I started for a year, but I was doing a lot of technique and scales,” she said, grimacing at the recollection.

The White Rock pianist, a student of Darlene Brigidear, counts her studies in Canada as the true beginning of her progress. And she acknowledges that while she has returned twice to China for summertime visits with family, once when she was 10 and once when she was 12, she’d already begun to feel like a stranger there.

“It was really different,” she said.

“There were more buildings than I remembered, and I wasn’t used to the weather anymore.

“I’m much more used to the Canadian climate, now – I like the rain!”

But Chu admits she sometimes dreams of travelling around the world as a concert artist.

“I definitely want to continue piano when I grow up,” she said.

“I want to take music in university. I’d like to do concerts and teaching.”

Chu also plays the flute, she said – the sound appeals to her.

“But I’m not that competent, yet,” she said.

Chu said she’s definitely open to more public performances like the Five Corners Bistro appearance, in which she will feature works by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin, as well as Debussy, Ravel and Balakirew.

She has a fondness for composers of the Romantic era, she acknowledges.

“I like minor pieces,” she said.

“I find more expression in them, which makes them easier to play.”

Chu usually practises between two and three hours a day, including weekends, but that can go up to as much as six or seven hours a day if an examination is impending. She’ll sometimes get carried away playing through her collection of music, looking for new material for her repertoire.

“That can be a lot of fun,” she said. “I always like the pieces I choose to play.”

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