MSIPC winner performs at Southern

Avan Yu performed Feb. 19 in Webster Hall Auditorium for area children.

Avan Yu performed Feb. 19 in Webster Hall Auditorium for area children.

Boosting interest in the arts and expanding the international mission are two reasons students may want to attend Avan Yu’s piano recital.

Yu is the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition winner, junior division, 2002.

Students from Joplin and the surrounding area were exposed to strains of Stravinsky, Bach and Beethoven Feb. 19. Yu performed for 13 area schools in two one-hour performances.

“I want them to see up close and personal what success is all about,” said Vivian León, director of MSIPC. “I hope it inspires them (students) to see what type of dedication it takes to be so good.”

After performing a shortened version of the concert he is to put on Friday, Yu held a question and answer session with the students.

“This is an opportunity to hear a young man at the very beginning of his career, who is very unusual,” said Dr. Cynthia Hukill, assistant professor of music and director of piano studies. “He is 15 years old. Years from now, they might be able to say I heard Avan Yu when he was 15 years old, when I was a student at Southern.”

Hukill was on the screening jury that selected Yu’s tape and 34 others from the more than 100 entries into the piano competition.

“When we were watching his tape, it was easy to say yes,” she said.

He had just turned 14 when he entered the competition.

“I go to concerts in surrounding areas, Kansas City, Tulsa, Springfield, and to have something come to you, right here for so little, the tickets are very reasonable, it’s a wonderful treat,” Hukill said.

“The competition is an amazing cultural experience. I hope everyone realizes what is in Joplin. We have wonderful musicians coming here. It gives all of us a boost and helps boost interest in the arts.”

Yu practices three to four hours a day during the week and eight to 10 hours a day on the weekend.

He was in the chess club at his high school, but he said he has little time for extra activities.

“I like to play video games too, but I don’t have that much time,” Yu said. “I need to sacrifice. I don’t have the time to do that much school work, although I’m on the honor role.”

He attends half a day of public high school, allowing him time in the afternoon for piano practice.

Yu’s 13-year-old sister also plays the piano.

“She’s more balanced academically and athletically, not like me with only the piano,” he said. “She plays table tennis and will compete in the Junior Winter Olympics in New Brunswick this year.”

He and his sister don’t compete against each other in competitions because they are in different age groups.

In elementary school, Yu played the violin, but he gave it up to devote more time to piano.

Originally from Hong Kong where he began his piano studies at age 5, Yu and his family moved to Vancouver in 1997 where he currently studies with instructor Kut Kau Sum.

In addition to winning MSIPC in 2002, he won the Seattle Youth Concerto Competition and the National Final of the Canadian Music Competition in 2001. He recently returned from China after earning fourth prize in the Fourth Tchaikovsky International Competition for Young Musicians. As the winner of such competitions, Yu has performed with orchestras including the Seattle Youth Symphony Classical Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra in China.

In 1999, at age 11, he won the Grand Prize Scholarship at the Richmond Music Festival. He was selected as the Vancouver National Representative for the National Music Festival and was first runner up in the British Columbia Association of Performing Arts Festival in 2001.

Yu performs on a new CD featuring the 2002 MSIPC winners in live performance. The CD will be available at the concert and in Hastings next week. The concert is 7:30 p.m. Friday in Webster Hall Auditorium.