VC Talks: an interview with Olivia Li, GLORY Int'l Music Competition prize winner


  • 1st Prize, GLORY Int'l Romantic Music Competition 2018
  • 1st Prize, GLORY Int'l Modern & Contemporary Classical Music Competition 2018

Olivia Li is 10 years old, and study with Florence Ko. She was 1st place winner of NCFMC (NC Federation Music Club) State Competition Wolff Award, Senior II of YAA (Young Artist Auditions by Raleigh Piano Teachers Association), State Royalty Competition, and Steinway Junior Piano Competition.

What year were you born?

Do you come from a musical family?
No. My parents are scientists.

What was your earliest musical experience?
When I was 6 years old, I was very impressed seeing my friend playing piano at my afterschool, and wanted to learn. I learned a couple of easy pieces from my friend, and I got them straight away. My mom thought it was a perfect time for me to start learning piano, so she found a good piano teacher for me.

Why did you choose to play the piano?
Piano is the most basic instrument, also known as ¨The King of Musical Instruments¨. If you learn how to play the piano, learning to play any other instrument would be easier.

Who are your favorite composers and why?
My 1st favorite composer is Frédéric Chopin, because i like how his music has natural ups-and-downs. My 2nd favorite composer is Alexander Glazounov. I like how his pieces are so jolly. Lastly, i like Glenn Gould. I love how he always sits on his little chair, and sings while playing, which helps him.

Who are your musical idols?
One of my favorite musical idols is Yujia Wang. When she was about my age, every morning before school she would go swimming for an hour to get strong muscle. Whenever i hear her play, she looks so into the music. She plays very loud, but firm. My other musical idol is Lang Lang. When he plays, he is so emotional. He has been doing a music foundation where he can encourages and teaches younger children to play piano.

What is a perfect performer?
A perfect performer is not a person that plays all the notes correctly, but is somebody that knows the feeling and flow of the music. Of course, if they do get all the notes and all the dynamics right, adding on the feeling of the music, that would be great, but even if all the notes aren’t correct, but they still understand how the music is supposed to sound, it is perfect.

What music are you mostly enjoying at the moment?
A. I am mostly enjoying Nocturnes at the moment. What they remind me of it on a pond at night, when the moon is shining down at it, a small boat is softly and slowly drifting on the water.

What are the main influences in your music-making?
My 2 main influences in music for me are my 2 music teachers. Florence Ko helps me to feel the music, challenges me, and makes me work to the best of my ability. Alice Zhao, supports me very much and keeps me moving forward.

When you are performing, what are your thoughts?
When I am performing, my main thoughts are to get the phrasing, dynamics, and emotions right. I have to understand the piece during practicing, before I can perform.

Where do you study music and what are your future educational plans?
Every week I have two piano classes, outside of school. For my future plan, I still haven’t fully decided yet, but I believe that music will benefit my education.

What are your reasons to participate in music competitions?
My reasons to participate in music competitions aren’t to see who is better, and who is worse, but to see where I am, and test how much I’ve learned and accomplished throughout the past year. My mom suggested me not to focus on winning or not, but to make sure I’ve tried my best.

What is your opinion about GLORY International Music Competition?
I love how this competition splits into 4 sections: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern. It is just like a timeline, and if anybody didn’t know when those periods were, they could just glance up at this. It was very helpful to me.

When it is not music, what interests you? What is your favorite pastime?
My favorite hobby other than music is dancing, especially ballet. Ballet and piano go together very well. Ballet can help me with the tempo of music.

What book are you reading now?
The book I am reading right now is “When the Sea turned to Silver.” It is about how a little girl named Pinmei and her friend Yishan go adventuring to save The Storyteller, or Pinmei’s grandmother from the emperor.

What are the happiest moments in your life?
One of the happiest moments of my life is when I got my dog, Kiki. Another moment is when I first started playing piano. I was so excited about everything! I also tried to teach my mom a couple of my favorite pieces, and she enjoyed it so much too! My 3rd happy moment was when my brother started playing piano. He was just like me, excited. I have so many happy moments, and it’s hard to say which one is the happiest.

What things do you not like to do?
There’s nothing that I don’t like in my mind at the moment.

What inspires you and what makes you sad?
Listening to music on the way to school and back home makes me so calm and relaxed. It inspires me to work harder. What makes me sad is when people misunderstand me.

What are your strengths?
One of my biggest strengths is never giving up. I´ve had many bottlenecks in so many things before, but I never gave it up.

What is your life motto?
My life motto is ¨When you fall down, stand back up.¨

What is most important in life?
I believe family is most important in life. My family encourages me when i am feeling sad. My brother always brings light to me, and my parents want me to be the best person i can be, no matter the circumstance.

What is more important: talent or hard work?
I feel that hard work is more important, because no matter how much talent you have, if you don’t work hard, it will just fade away. If you don’t have any talent, but you work the hardest you can, you can possibly be as good as the person with all the talent.

If today was the last day on earth, what would you do?
If today was the last day on earth, i would spend as much time as I could with my family. I would play soccer with my dad and brother, read with my mom, and run around with my dog.

Why does the universe exist?
So that people could find meanings in their lives.

Thank you very much for talking to us.

In this series of interviews, we explore how some of the most talented and prize winning young classical musicians became interested in music, who are their musical idols, what they are working on at present, and what they strive to achieve in the future.