Parker Liu is a 22 year old working on his Doctorate in Pharmacy at Ferris State University in Michigan. He started playing the violin as an 8 year old and added the cello three years later. He played both through high school and has concentrated on the cello since graduating. Did I mention he has a way cool carbon fiber cello? In addition to the killer appearance, carbon fiber is impervious to the drastic changes in humidity one experiences in Michigan.
Parker was inspired to play when he saw some older students perform at a concert. He chose a violin and quickly fell in love with its sound. When he reached the sixth grade, the Lowell Area Schools revived their orchestra program that had been dormant for more than 60 years. Parker is quick to express gratitude to Sherri Miller, who was the Superintendant at the time.
“Since the program was brand new, we had 12 players signed up: seven violinists, two violists, two cellists, and one bass player,” Liu recalled. “Since we were so lopsided with violins, I volunteered to switch to cello.”
In the nine years between 3rd grade and graduation, Parker was a part of at least eight musical groups or orchestras in the schools. He was involved in his church orchestra, played in the Blue Lake Fine Arts camp orchestra and a number of duos, trios, and quartets. He played for four years in the orchestra at Ferris State. Obviously this gave him an opportunity to interact with all kinds of people from different walks of life. He also realized the power of cooperation.
“When learning music, you learn early on that everybody is working together to produce a masterpiece. Each part is important in its own way, but when everything is working together, something more beautiful can arise,” Parker told me. “As I moved into young adulthood, I learned how I could blend my life in with those around me to help create something more beautiful.”
Parker believes music enriches his daily life. He maintains that learning rhythms in music allows you to see more of the rhythms of the life around you. He appreciates all kinds of music, old and new. Most importantly, performing and listening to music is a stress reliever for him and gives him the chance to escape the business of the world.
We discussed private instruction and it came to light that Parker has been both a student and a teacher. He taught others from the 9th grade until the end of his first year in college and at one time had 18 students.
Cliff Yankovich: Do you think music should be a regular part of everyone’s education?
Parker Liu: Music serves as another chance for a young person to develop themselves as an individual. I believe that music can be beneficial to most people in a variety of ways that are too long to list. With that in mind, I believe an educational system that gives students as many opportunities as possible is most important. Music is constantly around us; there is not a day that one does not hear or listen to music, so I think it is vitally important that education systems maintain a music program.
CY: How would your life be different without your musical education, training and playing?
PL: Without my musical education and experiences, I believe that I would be a very different individual. One of my largest struggles in life is related to expressing my emotions in the healthiest ways possible. In addition, I wasn’t the most athletic student, so music was my place to shine. With these factors in mind, I don’t believe I would have been as creative or in tune with the environment that surrounds me.
CY: What is the BEST aspect of music and musical education for you?
PL: With time and practice, one can take music notes written on paper and truly create music. The distinction is involving one’s emotions within their performance. At the end of high school, I was able to express my gratitude for all those that have helped me along the way with a recital before my graduation open house. As a part of that performance, I worked to learn J.S. Bach’s first cello suite. A collection of six individual pieces, many different techniques and styles are utilized in about 30 minutes of music. I spent almost a full year working on the collection.
Technically, I had the music mastered in about 6 months; I spent the remaining 5-6 months really LEARNING the music. By the time of the recital, I had memorized the entire suite and performed it as such. Speaking with my family and friends afterwards, it became obvious that I had become a part of the music and my emotions and personality spoke through my performance. With this experience, I found my continued drive as I matured not only as a musician, but also as an individual. This passion has overflowed to every aspect of my being. Without my music education starting almost 15 years ago, I would not be the person I am today. Music will remain a strong part of my life – it enriches my life every day.
Parker appreciates and acknowledges the support he enjoyed from his family.
“My family was always supportive of my endeavors with music,” Parker recalled. “My parents were always committed to helping me achieve anything I wanted when it came to music (as well as everything else!).”
Speaking of family and music, Parker is engaged to Chelsey, his sweetheart of six years. Parker arranged one of the most wonderful days for her when he proposed. Chelsey got spoiled all day with good food, a fancy hair cut, and a trip to the spa. At the end of the day Parker was waiting to propose and part of his proposal involved playing a piece for her on his cello. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tTuO_l4qko
Parker Liu is a testimony to the power of music and musical education.
Cliff Yankovich is a partner with his wife Julie Claire DeVoe at Chimera Design, a jewelry store in Lowell Michigan since 2002 (www.ChimeraDesign.ws). A Todd Rundgren fan since 1972, Cliff is thrilled to be a part of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation. His observations and opinions can be found on his blog: www.cliffsriffs.blogspot.com.