Anthony Wu practices the piano

Anthony Wu practices the piano.

The typical teenager enjoys late-night drives and Friday-night lights with not many responsibilities, but that’s not the case for Anthony Wu.

Anthony prefers to spend his free time taking care of his priorities. He is a 17-year-old Rock Bridge High School junior with extraordinary musical abilities and stellar grades.

“He comes from a long line of engineers,” said his father, Bin Wu, an engineering professor at MU. While he said his son, an accomplished pianist, is the first member of the family to have musical talent, everyone else shares an appreciation for music, especially his parents.

Anthony, a junior at Rock Bridge High School, was named one of five young musician winners this week at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. He competed largely against college music majors from the U.S. and abroad and will give a piano concert July 29 during the festival.

Anthony started playing piano when he was 6. Although he says he hated it, his parents thought it would benefit him in the long run.

“Looking back, I think I understand why I hated it so much,” he said. “It was because of the music that was playing — it just didn’t appeal to me.”

Around seventh grade, he began to enjoy piano, after watching a video and seeing how classical music should be played. He was inspired by the sounds he could create himself.

Fast forward a few years, and his dream has been to become a performing pianist. At that point, his father hesitated. Although Bin Wu said he loves listening to his son play, becoming a professional pianist is competitive and difficult.

Eventually, they came to a compromise: After finishing his homework, Anthony can practice. If he keeps his grades up, he can keep chasing his dream.

Pianist Anthony Wu performs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 with the Odyssey Chamber Ensemble during the Odyssey Chamber Music Series on Feb. 14, 2020, in Columbia.

Anthony practices around three hours a day and takes piano lessons once a week with Peter Miyamoto, a professor of piano at MU. Anthony said he is building his piano repertoire, so he learns a new piece every other week.

He also takes classical trumpet lessons with Iskander Akhmadulin, who teaches trumpet at MU, and jazz lessons with Loyd Warden, a prominent jazz drummer in Columbia.

A self-described “awkward extrovert,” Anthony said he loves being around people but can sometimes get anxious around them. That also happens before every performance.

“I love performing, but building up to it...boy, do I get nervous,” he said.

To date, he has achieved a number of awards. In 2020, he won the Missouri State MTNA Senior Competition in piano and then competed in the MTNA West Central Division Competition where he performed the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 with a full orchestra on the Odyssey Chamber Music Series. He calls this his most memorable performance.

He was a featured soloist on the Missouri Symphony’s Hot Summer Nights Concert, and he is a six-time winner of the Piano Showcase Auditions which are performed in Columbia’s historic Missouri Theatre. In 2014, he won the 2014 Music Teachers Association pre-collegiate auditions.

Any form of art brings its set of challenges. For Anthony, it’s reminding himself that he’s never going to be the best.

“With piano, it’s so easy to listen to someone play the piano better than you and then realize they’re better than you.” He deals with these situations by reflecting on why he wants to play.

His father said the proudest moment in terms of his son is “Anthony just being Anthony, that simple. He has so much determination that pushes him forward — and he is so hardworking.”

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