11-year-old Lucia Li wins international piano award

20 June 2013

Watch Lucia perform at the 9th International Competition of Young Pianists in St Petersburg, Russia, June 2013.

Eleven-year-old pianist Lucia Li, a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music's Rising Stars program, has taken out the people's choice award as well as third prize in her age category at the Steps to Mastery competition in St Petersburg, Russia.

A student of the Con's chair of piano, Dr Paul Rickard-Ford, Lucia made it through the first two rounds amongst intense competition to be one of the final four players in the Under-11 category, where she performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in the grand space of the Shostakovich Philharmonic Hall.

Lucia performed the Beethoven work with the Academic Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg Philharmonic - her rehearsal earlier in the day was the first time she had played with an orchestra.

"It was completely different to playing by yourself," she said. Nerves took over after she felt the rehearsal didn't go as smoothly as she hoped, but reviewing her rehearsal performance with her mother, Huilan Jin, and taking quick nap, left her feeling revived.

"That night was the most exciting and nervous time in the whole of my life. I was nervous because I had only one rehearsal with an orchestra in my life. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform in a great hall with a great orchestra, so I needed to play my piece fantastically.

"My nerves went away as I sat down at the piano and the orchestra started playing my Beethoven Concerto No 1. the first movement. It was replaced with great joy. I gave it my all and put my heart into the music.

Lucia not only won third prize in her age category (Under 11), more importantly she won the prestigious Audience Prize award across all three age categories (Under 11, 15 and 19) represented in the competition.

Lucia is currently a Year 7 student at the Conservatorium High School. She credits her teacher, Dr Rickard-Ford, for much of her success. "He has taught me different touches on the piano and the colours."

In return Dr Rickard-Ford has nothing but praise for Lucia, who has been his student for the past five years. "It has always been very clear and apparent that she has a very special gift," he says.

"She has a unique ability to engage an audience and her style of playing has been described by many as beautiful and she shows a deep affinity with the true soul of the music she performs."

The competition "was a great experience for me," says Lucia. "I got to listen to great musicians play from around the globe which is reward enough in itself. In competitions, you're of course trying to win but the most important thing is to learn from one another.

"Every person's music style is different, their understanding is also different so you could accept their style and learn from it: they have reasons."

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