Chi Hoi Jimmy Cheung pianist

Jimmy Cheung, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My passion to pursue a career in music didn’t just happen overnight. I didn’t think I would be doing music for a living because I saw a concert or talked to a particular person. Instead, it was an accumulation of experience, knowledge, research, and work. I started learning the piano as a hobby and my love for music grew as time passed. Now that I am pursuing music as a career, it is still growing to this day, and I don’t think it will ever stop.

My teachers are some of the most important influences on my musical life and career. They are Miss Amelia Chan from the Junior Department of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Professors Gordon Fergus-Thompson and Leon McCawley from the Royal College of Music in London, and Professors James Tocco and Ran Dank from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Besides, I am fortunate to have many mentors that really care about me and my success. Each of them plays an important part in shaping who I am today.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenge for me at this point is the ability to sustain and maintain a career, and at the same time make a decent living. Realizing that it requires a lot of skills, determination, perseverance, and luck.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

This year (2023), I am planning to release a recording featuring the complete instrumental duets by Frederic Chopin. This is my first album, and I am very excited about it.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I don’t think I specialize in any particular works or composers. In fact, I find my playing changes quite often. On some days I might feel particularly at home with Bach, but a few months later I might be totally immersed in a contemporary work. It depends on a lot of factors, but I always try to do my best.

What do you do off-stage that provides inspiration on stage?

Watching YouTube! Seriously, there is so much valuable information on YouTube, whether it’s a performance or a masterclass. I often listen to recordings and that’s certainly one way of getting inspiration. I also enjoy talking about music with my friends. I love to listen to other people’s views about music, how they approach certain things, how they practice, etc.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I always strive for a well-balanced programme. Most of the time I find an urge to learn a particular piece, and then try to find something to go with it. Sometimes it also has to do with anniversaries or celebrations. For example, in 2020 I celebrated Beethoven’s 250 anniversary and programmed a four-hand arrangement of his Symphony No. 9. It also depends on the audience. I perform at a lot of non-traditional concert venues. For example, I would not perform the same repertoire I would have played in a concert hall in a brewery. (Yes, I did have a performance at a local brewery, Urban Artifact)

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I have a few. Steinway Hall in London is always personal to me because it was where I started performing “outside of school”, so to speak. The Werner Recital Hall at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is also a wonderful jam. It has great acoustics, and excellent pianos (three to choose from!), and I know most of the audience there very well. In general, I find myself preferring mid-sized venues. The venues are not too big like a symphony hall, but also not too small that the audience is sitting less than six feet away from you.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

Education. Realizing that music appreciation is a skill that can be developed. As performers, we also need to diversify our repertoire. The world of classical music is constantly evolving. There is much wonderful new music and music written by under-represented composers that deserves a bigger audience.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

In my first DMA recital at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, I had a wardrobe malfunction where my tie broke and dropped on top of the pedal when I was in the middle of the Liszt Sonata. It was only my third month in the United States…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Performing regularly, teaching a group of motivated students, and at the same time living (relatively) comfortably.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

Work hard, play hard. Do your work diligently, practice well, and be responsible to the composers and the music. At the same time, don’t get stuck in the practice room all day. Go out and connect with people, talk to everybody, socialize, collaborate, and be inspired. Strive for your goal and dream, but also be realistic, and open to options.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

How to get a job! I wish there are more career guidance in the industry, especially for people who just get out of school. Things like, how to build a website, how to grow a studio, how to start a festival, how to organize a concert series, etc. There are many opportunities in the music world, but one needs to know how to look for them and start preparing for it while they are still in school.

What is your most treasured possession?

The first piano I bought using my own money. It’s a mint condition Steinway 1098 upright that I found on Facebook at an amazing price. Also, my first car in the United States. I bought it as soon as I got my driver’s license. It has taken me all over the country to competitions, auditions, concerts, and festivals. It’s still going strong!

 Jimmy Cheung is an emerging musician with a versatile career as a performer, collaborator, and educator.

An accomplished pianist, Cheung is a laureate in numerous national and international competitions, including the Robert B. Beardsley Piano Prize Competition, Ohio Music Teachers Association (OMTA) Young Artist Piano Competition, Tuesday Musical Scholarship Competition, and Birmingham International Piano Competition in the United Kingdom. He has performed in major venues including Steinway Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Bridgewater Hall, and the Birmingham Town Hall. An active collaborative pianist and chamber musician, Cheung has performed with students and faculties from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), Cincinnati Starling Project, Arkansas State University, Indiana State University, and Ball State University. He has also performed in collaboration with pianist Angela Lau as Duo Orchid. The pair recently won the Ohio International Piano Duet and Duo Competition.

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