In response to why he has chosen to play the piano, Sean Yu ’18 stated, “It is my passion. I hope that one day I can use it to touch people.”
Yu is the first musician from Deerfield Academy to attend a conservatory. Next fall, he will attend New England Conservatory, one of the most distinguished music schools in America.
For as long as he can remember, Yu was exposed to music by his two musician parents. They started nurturing his passion for the piano from a very young age.
“My parents bought a piano when I was one and I started fiddling with it when I was three, so I started playing when I was five” said Yu.
Yu also takes his inspiration from his parents, especially from his father, for persevering for their art despite the difficulties they faced.
“[My father] came a long way from China during the Cultural Revolution only to perform on stage,” Yu elaborated.
Before coming to Deerfield, Yu won numerous competitions, providing him the opportunities to perform at various venues including the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City. Yu considers this one of the greatest achievements of his career.
During spring break of 2015, the Deerfield music program traveled to Asia and spent ten days in Korea and four days in Hong Kong. Yu, a ninth-grader at the time, accompanied the orchestra and choir, and performed chamber music during the two-week-long tour.
“That was my first experience performing so many concerts in a short amount of time and for pretty big audiences,” Yu reminisced. “It was a new and truly enjoyable experience.”
The director of this program, Peter Warsaw, was the previous Academic Dean and Director of the Chamber Music and Orchestra programs. Despite leaving Deerfield in 2016 to work in China, Warsaw also immensely influenced Yu’s passion for music.
“One of the reasons why I came here was because of Mr. Warsaw, and he really garnered a lot of interest in me for music,” Yu said.
“He was just a great mentor. He was my teacher, my advisor, and also my piano teacher, so I’d say I attribute most of my success here and my aspirations to him.”
During all four of his years here, Yu participated in Deerfield’s orchestra and took Chamber Music, the most advanced class offered to instrumentalists. Chamber Music allows musicians to work with each other in small groups, giving Yu the opportunity to collaborate with other Deerfield instrumentalists as well as meet renowned chamber musicians.
“During my time working with Sean, it’s clear that he is very knowledgeable about music and genuinely very passionate about the piano,” said Britney Cheung ‘19, a violinist also taking the Chamber Music class.
“Sean is a talented, and reliable pianist. He is highly aware of his goals and devotes a large amount of time and effort into his practice,” added pianist Shangyi Zhu ’20. “He has grown to develop more mature ideas in music, and become more passionate towards the things he loves.”
Four years ago, Yu played the first movement of the Brahms piano quintet in F minor Op. 34, and now, for his last chamber performance here at Deerfield, Yu will return to this piece full circle and perform the fourth movement.
“I fell in love with the piece back [in freshman year],” Yu said. “I was the one just listening to everyone else and trying to find my place. Now, I’m playing it more as a leader of the group. My role has changed, and I’m more musically mature, so it’s a great experience for me to play it and I hope to play it more.”
In addition to his chamber performance, Yu performed his senior recital on May 13. “It’s my last performance here, and it’s my only ever solo recital here, so I hope to give back to the school what they gave to me,” said Yu.
Looking forward, Yu plans to continue his studies with piano and perhaps diverge into other fields of music, such as composition or conducting, at NEC. Above all, he hopes to “concertize for people and touch people” with his music.