Pitt Meadows piano prodigy memorizes Pi

Lucas Yao and his mom, Cindy, sitting at the family’s grand piano. (Ronan O’Doherty/ THE NEWS)
Like many young kids, Lucas is captivated by all things related to the Nintendo video game character, Mario. (Ronan O’Doherty/ THE NEWS)
Lucas Yao has many collections. He is pictured with his plush Mario characters. His favourite - on the day this was taken - was the big star, which he will hopefully become some day. (Ronan O’Doherty/ THE NEWS)

At first glance, it would be hard to differentiate Lucas Yao from any other local five-year-old.

The Pitt Meadows youngster is playful, and curious. He treats his living room like an obstacle course, jumping from couch to ottoman and back, chuckling and humming to himself the whole time.

But seated at the new baby grand piano the family purchased, it becomes clear there is something special about the talented boy.

Even playing the iconic theme song to the Mario video games he loves, Lucas shows a purpose and intensity one would not expect from a child twice his age.

His head bops up and down, and he presses each key deliberately, eliciting a deep, wonderful tone from the instrument.

READ MORE: Piano back on Maple Ridge bandstand

His skills tickling the ivories have already taken him across the continent to one of the most prestigious stages in North America.

Proud mom, Cindy Liu, said Lucas was invited to play at New York City’s Carnegie Hall earlier this year after a first place finish in his category at the Crescendo International Music Competition.

His musical ability, she said, have come as something of a surprise, as there have been no professional musicians in her family. But, Liu noted, her father – Lucas’ grandfather – enjoyed carrying a tune as a young man.

“When he was younger, he wanted to be a singer,” Liu recalled, “But my grandmother refused to allow him to go down that path.”

“He would still sing a lot for us as kids.”

It is quite possible Lucas might end up as the entertainer his grandfather dreamed of being.

Liu said as a toddler, her son would often enjoy watching her play the family’s older upright piano.

“I would play some simple songs and he just loved hearing me play,” she said.

“He would sit there for an hour and wouldn’t want to go do other things.”

When Lucas turned three, his mom said he began to act moody, and seemed bored all the time. She thought he might be under-challenged, so she decided to see if she could teach him the basics on piano.

“I taught him from a beginners book but then he quickly outgrew it, and I had to find a proper teacher for him,” she said. “He was learning so fast, he outpaced my skills in no time.”

In addition to his love of music, Cindy said Lucas has always shown a keen interest in numbers.

“By one he was counting to ten already,” she said, “And by his fourth birthday he knew numbers up to centillion (which is a 1 followed by 303 zeros).

When asked whether he could count all the stars in the sky, Lucas smiled and said, “No, not all of them.”

He has learned to count to 100 in 10 different languages though.

During recent months, when options for keeping busy became limited due to COVID-19, Cindy said she was browsing the internet and saw a video on YouTube about the mathematical constant Pi.

“It was showing a method that can be used to memorize Pi to 50 or 100 digits, so I thought this looks fun, and maybe he’ll like it,” Liu said.

Shortly after showing Lucas, she said he expressed interest in trying it out.

Liu said it took about four days for him to memorize 50 digits, and then Lucas set a goal of learning 500 digits before his upcoming sixth birthday, which he was able to accomplish.

While he does not quite understand the concept of Pi – the relation of a circle’s circumfrence to its radius – the memorization skills are still extremely impressive.

READ MORE: Super 30 story’s inspirational teacher, author attend screening

Keeping Lucas challenged has been a full time job for the stay-at-home mom.

“I’m very proud of him, but there’s a lot of stress too,” Liu said.

“I think to myself, should I step back a little bit and see where we’re going with this?

“He’s so gifted, but I don’t know whether I want to push him to maximize his gifts or take it easy, so he can be more normal.”

Fear of becoming known as an overly strict or demanding parent plagues Liu.

“I’m always afraid that people will look at me as a ‘tiger mom’,” she said.

“But we’re like best friends. He’s super affectionate and we have a very close relationship.

“I think I’m giving him extra love, and when he feels loved I think he creates.”

In order to make sure Lucas is well-rounded, she also has him enrolled in tennis lessons – he said his best shot is his forehand – and horseback riding.

Lucas also loves to play any Nintendo games with Mario in them.

While his mom was being interviewed, he alternated between playing MarioKart, and watching a YouTube video of someone playing Super Mario Bros.

He wouldn’t commit to answering what he would like to be when he grows up.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he said.

It was suggested that maybe he could design Mario games.

“That would be nice,” he agreed.



ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

MusicPitt MeadowsSuper Kid

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sources, City of White Rock launch Thanksgiving Food Drive

Volunteers, donations sought for annual food-bank initiative

COVID-19 exposures at Surrey schools: An updated list

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey man charged with series of break-ins in Surrey, Langley

David Sinh Liu is facing 10 charges related to seven recent break-ins

Future of Massey Tunnel replacement in the air after snap election called

On Friday the ministry said it was identifying property ‘necessary for future infrastructure improvements’

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

COVID-19 testing lineup wraps around block in Chilliwack

Testing lineup includes seniors, children and their parents as demand seems to surge

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Most Read