This week our Senior Spotlight is on Michael Liu. Michael grew up in the United States and moved to AISG in 10th grade, bringing impressive piano skills and an expertise in classical music along with him.
We sat down with this young musician turned cross country team captain to talk about his experience as an IB Music student and how his time at AISG has completely changed his views on music and what it means to be a musician.
Well, none of the people in my family are musicians but they all love music. When I was a little kid, I was at a friends house and randomly started playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on their piano and my dad was like "Oh. Michael can play piano" and it all started there. My dad always kind of helped me and taught me alongside my piano teacher. He had a huge influence on my music and my life growing up and is the reason why I still play today. He helped me to always enjoy it and to make sure it never felt forced. A lot of people start playing an instrument at a young age like that but when they get to high school they end up quitting. I never quit piano because I've always genuinely loved it.
Any other instruments?
I play the cello! And I've learned a bit of guitar recently, just some chords. Like if you were to give me a pop song right now I could probably play the chords on the guitar. I was also in choir and like to sing, but I prefer to play.
What is the life of an IB Music Student like?
IB Music is not what most people think it is. It's so much more than just playing and performing the music. We get to learn the theory of the music, see the music on paper, and then analyze that music and learn its history rather than just learning how to play it.
What is your favorite part of IB Music?
Well, besides annoying my teacher (laughing), it's probably the fact that we get to experience such a variety of music. For example, the other day we were learning about 20th-century music and different experimental musicians and there was this piece that we listened to that was just 4 minutes of silence. Nothing else. Sometimes music can be more like modern art. That relationship between music and art is really cool to learn about and something that IB Music has really opened my eyes to. I also like how IB has helped me to develop a great work ethic.
Favorite type of music to play?
I used to play a lot of classical and I still love to play Beethoven. Like, if you asked me to play something right now I would play Beethoven because Beethoven is the best. But recently I've been experimenting with pop songs. I like to listen to a modern pop song just once and then try to play it, which has been really fun for me.
Do you write your own music?
Yeah, I write my own music. I write a lot of beats on Logic Pro X which is a recording studio software. I try to learn as much as I can about music technology and producing music. I also love to improvise on the piano. I feel like with classical music, its all about getting the notes exactly right and that’s how you know if you play it well, but music is more than that. Improvisation allows you to express yourself more and really show your musicality.
How do you prepare for a performance?
I did many competitions when I lived in the states and before each competition, there's so much preparation. It's all about accuracy and playing all of the right notes. You're playing these old songs and trying to keep what they played in the past alive today, so it has to be perfect.
When I'm going to perform in a talent show or something like that, I never prepare before going on stage. The way I feel before the performance will influence the way that I play. It's so much fun. I get to sit there and think "What should I play?" and then I hear something in my head and I just start playing it. Mr. Bott, one of our music teachers here, has been THE most influential person in my music recently. He taught me how fun improvisation is and has shown me a completely different way to look at music. Before I came to AISG I only cared about classical music and didn’t really care much about jazz or improv. and then Mr. Bott was like "hey, just play what you hear in your head" and it's been really fun. I've realized that music is more about that now, just having fun and feeling the music.
How has music influenced your life?
Well, music is my life in a way. Even though I won't be majoring in it at college and I have plans to join the military after college, I really hope to do something with music as well. I just love listening to music and jamming and if I see a piano, my first instinct is to go over and play it. Growing up and preparing for piano competitions, I would practice for up to 8 or 9 hours at a time, playing passages of songs to the point where my fingers would hurt. Like really hurt. That taught me how to work hard and not give up. I feel like I've developed this kind of strong mindset that will continue to help me throughout my whole life.
Memorable moments at AISG?
Wow, there's been so many good moments. I'll always remember physics class because my entire squad of friends is there and we have a great time and are able to have fun while learning. Also, Mr. Bolton's class because he taught me how to debate and I always got the chance to debate with him during class.
Next Steps after AISG?
I will be joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. After that, one of my aspirations is to become a U.S. Army Ranger so I plan on going to ranger school after university. After my time in the military, I would like to work in music in some way. Who knows, things might change for me but for now, this is what I want to do and I'm pretty excited about it.
Congratulations to Michael and the rest of the Class of 2019 for all they have accomplished!