Meet the 2016 Gilmore Young Artists!
Every two years, The Gilmore announces two new young artists of exceptional talent and presents them with the Gilmore Young Artist Award. The award comes after an extended period of critique by a six-member panel… while the artists in question have no clue they’re being judged.
The New York Times recently called The Gilmore’s selection process “the music world’s version of the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘genius’ grants: a prestigious prize that cannot be applied for or sought.”
Above and beyond the recognition of becoming a GYA (alongside George Li, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein and 26 other established pianists), each winner receives a $15,000 stipend to further his/her musical and educational endeavors as well as the commission of a new piano composition – to which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for one year. The Gilmore Artist Awards are a pillar of what we do, and the artists selected for the awards become an essential part of our history.
This year’s GYAs are also the first officially-announced performers at our 2016 Festival!
We interviewed Micah McLaurin and Daniel Hsu about their experiences as young professional pianists – as well as their thoughts on the future of their careers.
• Hometown: Charleston, SC
• Age: 19
• School: Curtis Institute
• Instructor: Robert McDonald
• Began playing when his family inherited his grandmother’s piano
• Hometown: San Francisco, CA
• Age: 17
• School: Curtis Institute
• Has two older siblings, Ashley and 2014 GYA Andrew
• Created an award-winning app with a friend’s company
The Gilmore: Both of you were home schooled with your siblings, and now you both attend the same school. How did you choose the Curtis Institute?
Micah: There are many great things that drew me to Curtis, the reputation of the school and its legendary alumni being one reason I applied. Mainly, I love my teacher there, Robert McDonald. The school has a great atmosphere for developing young artists and I found it was the perfect fit for me.
Daniel: Curtis is a really special place. Outside of the amazing faculty, the initial draw for [my family] as a family that grew up very close was how small the school was and the family feeling that came with it. It’s cheesy and cliché, but people say that Curtis is a big happy family, and the thing is, it’s actually true.
The Gilmore: Daniel, do you and your siblings share a practice space? Are the three of you very competitive, or are you more cooperative?
Daniel: We don’t share a practice space! We each have our separate rooms to practice, although all the sounds still end up overlapping and you end up hearing interesting mashups of pieces. We’ve learned to tune each other out, but I think my parents have grown a few extra white hairs from this. We’re definitely cooperative, not competitive. It’s pretty common around here to yell across the house when you hear something that isn’t quite right. We swap practice rooms, share books (even though Andrew likes to keep his scores meticulously neat), help each other plan programs, just to name a few.
The Gilmore: How do you balance your education with your career?
Micah: Now that I’m at Curtis, I feel education and music are not so separate anymore. Mostly I have chamber music, of course my private lessons, and other musical classes which all play a part in my overall artistic education. I was homeschooled in high school, which helped me focus on what mattered to me most: piano. Piano comes first and I generally try to work other things around it.
Daniel: I don’t think I am qualified to answer this as I’m still figuring it all out. One of the things that my teachers have emphasized repeatedly is the importance of not only growing and learning musically, but also to stretch your mind and open yourself to new experiences. All of this not only makes you a better person, but it comes back to enrich the music you play.
The Gilmore: Micah, does playing the piano help you escape everyday life? Or does it add to the chaos?
Micah: Piano is my everyday life, so I think actually all the other stuff is the chaos. My mind was always centered around piano and practicing and lessons, so the other things would get crazy for me sometimes when all I wanted to do was focus on music.
The Gilmore: How do you know when it’s the right time for you to stop practicing and relax, go outside, read a book, etc.?
Daniel: I’m the poster child for the school of “practice when you want.” Many years ago, my brother once said with a serious face that he was practicing in his mind… I’m not crazy, but this actually works. When you can’t get something right, or even if you do, taking a step back changes everything.
Micah: Sometimes my brain just refuses to cooperate, so the practicing isn’t productive at all. That’s when I know it’s time to do something else.
The Gilmore: Daniel, what sort of things do you like to do besides playing the piano?
Daniel: I really enjoyed reading and English when I was in school, but now, I spend my free time computer programming! I’ve worked on personal projects, projects for the school, and I help out at a friend’s company. We recently won an Apple Design Award, where Apple chooses a few of the most innovative and creative apps for their platforms. We were at the top of the App Store for several days, which is insane considering how many apps there are, and were featured repeatedly as Editor’s Choice. We’ve also been praised for our dedication to accessibility and making the lives of visually impaired users easier.
(Check out Daniel’s app, Workflow!)
The Gilmore: Do you prefer performing solo or chamber music? Which is more nerve-wracking?
Micah: I prefer performing solo. I feel freer as a soloist. Chamber music is wonderful when you find the right partners. I really enjoy collaborating with singers.
Daniel: To me, they’re pretty equal. The special thing about chamber music is sharing your ideas, working with others and their ideas, and creating one coherent performance. It’s incredibly rewarding to perform because you get to feed off the energy of your fellow performers. In solo performances, the story is all yours, but you’re also the only one bowing.
The Gilmore: Which pieces in your repertoire have been most successful with getting an emotional reaction from your audience? Which pieces have made you cry as an audience member?
Micah: The best thing for me is when someone tells me they cried. I just like to have an intimate connection with the audience and I feel I’ve done my job if people cry. The most times I’ve heard that was with the Chopin Concerto No. 2. I actually don’t cry so easily during performances or recordings, but I know I have cried hearing the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s second symphony. Everyone knows the melody; it’s used in pop songs, such as “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again” by Eric Carmen. I love the Chopin concertos so much and have probably cried during both of them, and also from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.
Daniel: I can’t speak for my performances. I really don’t know! One clear memory that I have was sitting in on a Curtis Symphony Orchestra rehearsal for my conducting class. I must’ve been having a bad day and wasn’t particularly excited. I sat down, and they started playing Mahler and I immediately became lost in that world… the color and range and sound produced was from another world. That’s the only way I can describe it.
The Gilmore: Daniel – you’ve built up an impressive career at a very young age. What are your proudest moments so far?
Daniel: My most memorable performance has to be the night of late Beethoven sonatas I did with my siblings. We each took one of the last three Beethoven sonatas and performed them in succession, all in one concert. If you’re unfamiliar with the works, many consider them to be some of the most profound pieces of music written for solo piano. The atmosphere was amazing and sharing that with my siblings has been my proudest moment to date.
The Gilmore: Micah, of all the venues where you have performed, which one was your favorite? Which city have you liked the best?
Micah: My favorite venue so far is Severance Hall in Cleveland. I was honored to perform there with the Cleveland Orchestra, where all the greats have performed before. It was such a pleasure to make music there, very inspiring. I would say my favorite city is London. I love the diversity of the city, the history of royalty, and the shopping. London has everything.
The Gilmore: Thinking about composers, concert halls, etc., what are your performances goals for the future? What’s your ultimate performance dream?
Daniel: I go through phases in terms of composers. I’m just getting out of a Russian romantics obsession and have no gone all in with Schubert and Brahms. I don’t have any specific goals other than just sharing my music with others!
Micah: I am very passionate about Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Scriabin, etc. I am a romantic at the core. I just want to keep having opportunities to continue making music for people everywhere I can. I have so many performance dreams, particularly the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. A different (perhaps shocking) dream for my field would be to share the stage with Lady Gaga, who I find very inspiring in art and life. I am so impressed with her talent, love and knowledge of all music.