Kate Liu - 17th International Chopin Competition - 3rd Place Winner!

October 22, 2015


It isn’t just every day, or every year for that matter, that any competitor from the United States is among the Chopin International Competition finalists and prizewinners.  In fact, no American has won a first prize since 1970.  It’s a very select group of pianists who share the honor, a group which includes such famous pianists as Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Garrick Ohlsson and Mitsuko Uchida.


However 2015 was a breakthrough year for the United States and for one very special pianist, Kate Liu.  At age 21, Liu, this young pianist, originally from Winnetka, has taken the music world by storm.  She first began her studies at the Music Institute of Chicago in 2004 with the late Emilio del Rosario and went on to study with Micah Yui and Alan Chow at MIC before her acceptance to the Curtis Institute of Music in 2013 where she currently studies with Robert McDonald.  She was member of the inaugural Academy class at the Music Institute, a program which has consistently produced top performing classical musicians like violinist Ben Beilman, violist Matthew Lipman and cellist Gabriel Cabezas.



Matthew Hagle, Music Institute of Chicago faculty pianist commented, “What Kate has been doing is quite special. In recent years it's rare that an American even reaches the finals of this competition that might seem daunting, but Kate has gone through this whole process with great poise and artistry, playing beautifully and with great love for the music in spite of the extremely high degree of pressure. For the last eight or nine years, anyone who wanted to hear Kate Liu would need to walk into MIC and go past a practice room, where you could hear her perfecting her skills; now the secret is out, and the world gets to hear the results.”


Beginning with 160 competitors, Liu advanced to the second round of 43, as did another Music Institute of Chicago alumna, Rachel Naomi Kudo from Northbrook.  On October 16, the third round of competition concluded with 20 pianists from 12 countries were selected. The final round took place October 18-20.  Kate Liu performed Chopin’s Concerto in E minor, Op. 11 accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of the Warsaw Philharmonic conducted by Maestro Jacek Kaspszyk. David Polk of WFMT wrote of the performance, “The orchestra didn’t even finish playing its final notes before yells of excitement were heard and about half the audience rose to their feet, which did not happen for the other performers… After her third round performance, Dorota Szwarcman of the weekly magazine Polityka wrote that other performers were ‘eclipsed by Kate Liu.’”


Alan Chow, piano faculty at Northwestern University and for the MIC Academy commented, “Kate is an absolute joy to know and to teach... What sets her apart from other pianists of her generation are perhaps two things: first, her intensely personal desire to know more, to search for meaning and answers in her music -- she is always thinking and is never easily satisfied.  Secondly, it's her ability to express and communicate her emotions fully and completely in performance -- she's "in the moment" on stage.  And when she performs, it's completely honest -- no affectations of any kind. I think this combination of qualities is quite rare in someone her age. She is clearly on the verge of a wonderful performing career!”

James Setapen, Director of the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a program founded in 2006 as a training center for highly gifted pre-collegiate musicians, said of Kate, “It was clear that Kate Liu had extraordinary talent, ambition, and charisma from when I first heard her as a teenager. She has a performer's greatest gift - the ability to hold you riveted from first note to last.”


As winner of the third prize, Kate was awarded 20 000 euros and bronze medal. “To place in the International Frederic Chopin Competition is like placing at the World Cup or in the Olympics, remarked Music Institute of Chicago President and CEO Mark George.  “This is a monumental achievement for Kate Liu. Now the world can see and hear what a wonderful artist she is.  The Music Institute of Chicago is very proud to have had her as a student.”

Academy Orchestra with violinist Almita Vamos

Saturday, May 28 at 7:30 pm Don't miss the final concert of the Academy season >>