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Student pianist featured

Shana Liu ('21) practices for her performance with the Des Moines Community Orchestra.

Shana Liu ('21) practices for her performance with the Des Moines Community Orchestra.

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

Shana Liu ('21) practices for her performance with the Des Moines Community Orchestra.

Piper Wood, Staff Writer

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Shana Liu (‘21) performed Edvard Greig’s Piano Concerto in A Minor Op.16 with the Des Moines Community Orchestra on Sunday May 13 in Des Moines.

Liu won the Bill Riley Talent Search at the Iowa State Fair on the piano in 2016. After that performance, Conductor of the Des Moines Community Orchestra Carl Johnson asked Liu to perform with the orchestra and the two chose the Grieg concerto. The Des Moines Community Orchestra’s Spring concert also included works from Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as well as collaborative guest musicians on three other pieces.

  Over the past six months, Liu practiced and performed this piece in preparation for Sunday.

“Lately I have been practicing at least three hours a day, which doesn’t just include the concerto, but a large portion of my practicing is,” Liu said. “I also perform for my seminar, which is really the best thing because it makes me nervous, and simulates the performance experience.”

  Liu also worked on this piece in her studio lessons with Strauss for the majority of the semester.

“Mostly we have worked intensively on the Grieg concerto this semester, most of our lessons have centered around the Grieg,” Strauss said. “It is a real accomplishment that someone her age can master this material and present it in a professional fashion with an orchestra.”

Liu performed all three movements of the Grieg concerto with the Des Moines Community Orchestra. Edvard Grieg, born in 1843 in Bergen, Norway, composed the Grieg concerto at 25 years old. According to the Redlands Symphony, Grieg’s major influence came from traditional Norwegian folk music and literature, which is apparent in the third movement of the concerto. Although Grieg was not as prolific in his composing as fellow musicians like Debussy or Bernard Shaw, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor stands out as his “biggest work in terms of power and gesture,” Redlands Symphony said.

For Liu, the concerto poses technical challenges in memorization and projection to remain cohesive with the orchestra for the 30-minute piece.

“With concertos, a big issue is projection which is making sure that I’m heard over the orchestra at the important parts,” Liu said. “There are a ton of arpeggios and scales…it is challenging.”

Liu came to Luther after four years as an Iowa Allstate Music Festival member. She had also required piano, viola, and violin accolades. At Luther, Liu is a Neuroscience major and chemistry and music minor on the pre-med track and a member of Luther’s Symphony Orchestra, as both a violist and a pianist. Liu’s primary instrument is piano, and she accompanies both vocalists and instrumental musicians.

“I split a lot of my time between Jenson-Noble and Valders,” Liu said. “Lots of labs, and lots of practicing.”

Liu’s piano instructor, professor John Strauss recognizes the commitment to a liberal arts education that Liu made coming to Luther.

“She came to Luther because she wanted a rigorous academic program and wanted to continue with her music,” Strauss said. “It was the liberal arts aspect of the college that drew her here because she could get the kind of science training she needed, and at the same time participate fully as a pianist, as a violist, and as an accompanist. I’ve been teaching here for 43 years, and she represents the very best that Luther gets of this type of student.”

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