'For me, the best thing about studying at UC is the quality of the tuition...'
Stephen is one of the youngest students to have graduated from UC’s School of Music, completing his undergraduate degree at the age of just 18. Having been home-schooled, he started his degree on a part-time basis when he was just 15 years old, taking first-year piano performance and music theory courses. Now twenty years old, Stephen recently completed a Master of Music degree with Distinction, supervised by Dr. Jian Liu. He is clear about his motivation to study Music.
‘I have been passionate about classical music and, in particular the piano, from an early age,’ he says. ‘I believe that music is an important force in our culture. It is much more than entertainment — it has the power to affect people’s mood, behaviour, and ultimately their lives, for better or worse.’
Stephen hopes to become a professional concert pianist, saying his overarching goal in this is to bring classical music to more people.
‘I believe much of the current popular music, which lasts only a few years, is of low quality. I wish instead to promote great, timeless, classical music – music which can inspire and uplift.’
Stephen is already a regular concert performer, and his passion for the piano has seen him perform as a soloist and accompanist many times, including accompanying notable violinist Professor Natalia Lomeiko and performing for the visit of the former President of Poland, Bogdan Borusewicz — an event held at UC’s School of Music.
He has also appeared playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Stephen is especially attracted to the Romantic repertoire, particularly Chopin and Liszt, and has performed many of these masterpieces to critical acclaim.
Having an exceptional academic record which saw him achieve six prizes and eleven scholarships, Stephen is also a Fellow of the Royal School of Music, receiving the respected Diploma with
Distinction. Now acclaimed as one of New Zealand’s outstanding young pianists, Stephen is appreciative of his time at UC, where he was inspired by the teaching.
‘For me, the best thing about studying at UC is the quality of the tuition and in particular being able to study with Professor Michael Endres, who is an outstanding pianist and teacher. He is one of the reasons I chose to study at UC.
‘I am also grateful for the arrangements UC made for me to undertake my master’s degree after Professor Endres left unexpectedly.’
Although his practice and study take up much of his time, Stephen also enjoys playing table tennis and tennis, having won his age group at the Marlborough Junior Open — a Tennis New Zealand two-star event. He has also had success in chess, taking part in tournaments including the Under 20 South Island Junior Chess Championship when he was just 11 years old.
A committed Christian, he is also involved in his church community.
‘I am thankful to God for my parents who home-schooled me all the way, enabling me to spend more time practising and studying music. This is what made it possible for me to enter university at an early age.’
Stephen says that putting in long hours is the secret to success in music, and advises other students to ‘practise hard – and enjoy it! I enjoyed everything about my Music degree. The best part is being able to study something I love to do, and having the opportunity to learn from world-class musicians and lecturers.’
Currently planning to begin studies in Germany, Stephen has been awarded a Study Scholarship for Foreign Graduates in the Field of Music, funded by the Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienste, as well as the prestigious William Georgetti Scholarship, which is awarded by a panel including New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Governor-General, and Chief Justice.
Stephen counts as his inspirations musicians such as Martha Argerich, Arthur Rubinstein, Jussi Björling, writers Leo Tolstoy, Alexandre Dumas and the renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon.
Stephen adds: ‘Music is a marvellous thing, a gift from God, something that strives to express the inexpressible. As Johann Sebastian Bach wrote: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”'