By Sue Moore
When Daniel Hsu walks on stage at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m., May 8 to play a piano concert, he will not be calm, cool and collected. “I definitely have nerves; without nerves it means you don’t care. I think nerves add something special to any performance.”
It seems he would have gotten over being nervous; he’s won several prestigious contests, including the one bringing him to Vicksburg. Hsu was chosen as the Irving S. Gilmore Young Artist for 2016. He is one of two new young artists of exceptional talent to receive the award. The Young Artist 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.”
Each winner receives a $15,000 stipend to further musical and educational endeavors as well as the commission of a new piano composition–to which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for a year.
While it came as a surprise to Hsu when he received the phone call from Kalamazoo last fall, he knew there was something familiar about the call: His older brother, Andrew, had been chosen as a Gilmore Young Artist in 2014. Andrew Hsu is currently a master’s degree student in piano and composition at the Juilliard School of Music. Music runs in the Hsu family; their sister, Ashley, is working on her master of fine arts degree at Columbia University, now studying writing. But before that, she had studied piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as did Andrew and then Daniel, who started there at the age of 10. Some day they may even return to play in concert together, he suggests. “We are a very close family,” Hsu says as he proudly ticks off his siblings’ accomplishments.
“Our parents sacrificed a lot,” Hsu says. “I was home schooled and my mother will travel with me to Kalamazoo for the performances I have scheduled in Vicksburg, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Marshall. My parents have little or no musical background. It’s rumored that my dad played violin as a child but he never pursued it. We live two blocks from the Curtis Institute, which is good because there is so much going on. I’ve never learned to drive because I can walk most everywhere.”
He has taken first prize in the San Jose International Piano Competition, the MTAC All-State Concerto Competition, the Pacific Musical Society Piano Competition and several others. “The best part about competitions is meeting people and making friends of the other competitors, who I hope will be friends for life.”
The prestigious Curtis Institute is a tuition-free school of 177 students. “There are no requirements for how many hours I have to practice but nobody can be a slacker in this school,” Hsu remarks.
“It’s hard to create a program for listeners and still play what I enjoy. I’ve chosen a Schubert piece which is one of my favorites but very difficult. A Liszt piece is on the schedule although it is not very well known. I’ll end with a Mussorgsky piece that has a lot of different characters in it. I’ll have to put my public speaking class to good use to explain to the audience the styles and sounds that are fun to play and listen to.”
Tickets for the May 8 event are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students 18 and under and $25 for families of five or more. Reservations can be made by visiting http://www.vicksburgcommunityschools.org/pac or by calling the Vicksburg Performing Arts center ticket office at 321.1193.