The Gilmore Blog
Published September 1, 2015
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 theyâre being judged.
The New York Times recently called The Gilmoreâs selection process âthe music worldâs version of the MacArthur Foundationâs âgeniusâ grants: a prestigious prize that cannot be applied for or sought.â
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 â 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 yearâs 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 â as well as their thoughts on the future of their careers.
Hometown: Charleston, SC
School: Curtis Institute
Instructor: Robert McDonald
Began playing when his family inherited his grandmotherâs piano
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
School: Curtis Institute
Has two older siblings, Ashley and 2014 GYA Andrew
Created an award-winning app with a friendâs company
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. Itâs cheesy and clichĂ©, but people say that Curtis is a big happy family, and the thing is, itâs actually true.
Daniel: We donât 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. Weâve learned to tune each other out, but I think my parents have grown a few extra white hairs from this. Weâre definitely cooperative, not competitive. Itâs pretty common around here to yell across the house when you hear something that isnât 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.
Micah: Now that Iâm 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 donât think I am qualified to answer this as Iâm 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.
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.
Daniel: Iâm the poster child for the school of âpractice when you want.â Many years ago, my brother once said with a serious face that he was practicing in his mindâŠ Iâm not crazy, but this actually works. When you canât 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 isnât productive at all. Thatâs when I know itâs time to do something else.
Daniel: I really enjoyed reading and English when I was in school, but now, I spend my free time computer programming! Iâve worked on personal projects, projects for the school, and I help out at a friendâs 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 Editorâs Choice. Weâve also been praised for our dedication to accessibility and making the lives of visually impaired users easier.
(Check out Danielâs app, Workflow!)
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, theyâre pretty equal. The special thing about chamber music is sharing your ideas, working with others and their ideas, and creating one coherent performance. Itâs 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 youâre also the only one bowing.
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 Iâve done my job if people cry. The most times Iâve heard that was with the Chopin Concerto No. 2. I actually donât cry so easily during performances or recordings, but I know I have cried hearing the third movement of Rachmaninoffâs second symphony. Everyone knows the melody; itâs used in pop songs, such as âNever Gonna Fall In Love Againâ by Eric Carmen. I love the Chopin concertos so much and have probably cried during both of them, and also from Wagnerâs Tristan and Isolde.
Daniel: I canât speak for my performances. I really donât know! One clear memory that I have was sitting in on a Curtis Symphony Orchestra rehearsal for my conducting class. I mustâve been having a bad day and wasnât particularly excited. I sat down, and they started playing Mahler and I immediately became lost in that worldâŠ the color and range and sound produced was from another world. Thatâs the only way I can describe it.
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 youâre 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.
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.
Daniel: I go through phases in terms of composers. Iâm just getting out of a Russian romantics obsession and have no gone all in with Schubert and Brahms. I donât 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.