Playing to Win and Pursuing a Dream

When College of Charleston music major Tianyu Liu ’21 stepped on stage to play for the first round of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, he was bolstered by the presence of his father, and his mentor and professor, Lee-Chin Siow. He had beat out hundreds of entrants to be one of 16 violin players to participate in his first big competition, which took place in Queenstown and Auckland, New Zealand.  

“I am so proud of Tianyu for his performance in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition,” says Siow, associate professor of music at the College. “He certainly did us all proud by the level of his performance. He received valuable criticism and input from the judges, which will help him to improve further. Each experience like this will help shape Tianyu as a person and as an artist. I really want to thank CofC for giving him such strong support.” 

That strong support includes receipt of the Reba Kinne Huge Music Scholarship, the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Endowed Scholarship for the School of the Arts, the Lee Harwood Scholarship in Music and the Jean W. Johnson Study Abroad Award. 

“Thanks to my scholarships and awards, I was able to focus my attention on my studies and preparing for Michael Hill,” says Liu, who went to Singapore in advance of New Zealand to take lessons with Siow and perform. “I practiced and prepared for a year, and still I learned so many ways that I can improve. In fact, Professor Siow gave me lessons during the competition. I also learned a lot from the judges. They gave many suggestions and offered areas of focus.” 

One piece of advice he received from a judge was to get a better violin. “In my free time, I took my violin to renowned New Zealand luthier Richard Panting for some adjustments. While there, one of the competition judges tried my violin and said I need a better violin to compete in the future.” 

New violin or not, Liu is going to use what he learned to audition for the Menuhin Competition that will take place in Richmond, Va., next year. And, of course, he will apply for the next Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2021. 

“I will dedicate myself to future competitions, to improve myself and to win,” says Liu. “This is my dream.”  – Darcie Goodwin