If there’s one thing Thomas Yu notices when he’s on the stage, it’s their teeth.
“I get nervous all the time especially if I know that I have patients in the audience but, the one thing that helps is when I see them smiling,” says the Saskatoon-born pianist. “It’s reassuring because family, friends and my patients, they are some of my biggest fans.”
Yu comes by the oral fixation honestly. During the day, Yu, is a periodontist in Calgary but in between patients and when his two small boys are sleeping, this award-winning pianist sneaks in rehearsal time.
“My two lives are complimentary. It keeps my brain and my hands focused,” he explains. “They both require a lot of time and discipline but I couldn’t do one without the other. Music opens my emotions, and my whole body and playing for big audiences is a thrill I continue to chase.”
“My two lives are complimentary. It keeps my brain and my hands focused.”
Yu will be returning home to feed his artistic side in Thomas Yu with the SSO on Saturday Feb. 8 at TCU Place. He will be performing a piece that he says is on his bucket list, Saint-Saëns’ piece Piano Concerto No. 5 also known as the Egyptian. It’s a piece that earned Yu gold at the 2016 Cliburn competition. The contest is considered the pinnacle of amateur piano competitions.
“This is the first time I get to play the piece in its entirety,” says Yu. “It’s pure magic, technically difficult and has all the fireworks and emotion that a masterpiece should have.”
Yu is looking forward to playing with old friends within the SSO including Carman Rabuka whom he not only shared music but also early training in dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan.
“I can’t wait to enjoy the moment and share one of my favourite pieces of music with my friends and family,” he says.
Yu is also looking forward to sharing this performance with his young sons Alex (3) and Nico (8 months).
“Alex really has a musical side to him, he prefers watching symphonies over cartoons. I can’t wait for him to see me play,” says Yu. “He knows all the instruments and the orchestra and when he sees me play he’s quiet and really focused.”
That evening will also be a celebration of contemporary Canadian pieces. Earthbeat by Calgary composer Vincent Ho and Behind the Sound of Music by prairie-born Nicole Lizée are also on the program.