World-renowned pianist performs with Waco Symphony Orchestra

Piano Concerto No. 1, S. 124, E. flat major by Franz Liszt, Thursday in Waco Hall. Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By Kj Burkley | Reporter

American pianist Drew Petersen performed with the Waco Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night in Waco Hall, marking the first time that Peterson has performed at Baylor.

The pieces performed were Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No.1,” S. 124 in E flat, with the orchestra concluding the concert with German composer Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben,” or “A Hero’s Life.”

Petersen has traveled the world preforming with a variety of prestigious orchestras, musicians and institutions in North America, Asia and Europe. However, he said that his musical journey developed at an early age from a deep curiosity about the wonders that music and the piano held in store.

“I grew up in a home with non-musicians, but my mom did inherit a piano from her youth,” Petersen said. “It was this old, rinky-dink upright thing that just barely played and barely held tune. But it was enough for curious Drew to want to discover what this thing was about.”

Throughout his career, Petersen has been awarded numerous national and international awards, including the 2017 American Pianists Awards, the Christel DeHaan Fellowship of the American Pianists Association and the 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grant. He was also named Artist-in-Residence for two years at the University of Indianapolis.

The world of piano grows endlessly for Petersen, and that same curiosity he had as a five-year-old playing a worn-out piano sold him on devoting his life to learning, teaching and performing as much music his piano has to offer.

“I’m so lucky to be a pianist because there is so much repertoire,” Petersen said. “There’s of course solo repertoire, but then when you count all the music we can play with other instruments—chamber music, accompaniment… it’s just endless. People ask me often if I want to play another instrument, and I say no because there is so much to play.”

Curiosity has led Petersen to excel academically as well. Petersen holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University with a concentration in social studies, which led him to explore more knowledge inside and outside of music.

Crediting the environment he grew in and the teaching he received, Petersen said that his love for music goes beyond reading and playing music on the piano. It extends to the expression of the composer, other instruments and the performers themselves.

Leander senior Joey Tkach, who is in his second year as an assistant trumpeter for the orchestra, said that everyone’s dedication to move on one accord in the orchestra was an incredible experience to behold.

“The orchestra is a collaboration, even though each person has their moment to shine,” Tkach said. “What is so beautiful about playing in a large ensemble is that we all come together to produce this result that is homogenous and just so full of life because it is— it’s full of people.”

Tickets were on sale at a discounted rate for students that presented their Baylor ID at the door. Petersen hopes the music resonated with the audience and musicians, even if it meant not having control over every aspect of performing.

“Its very easy to get bogged down in the execution of everything,” Petersen said. “But that’s not the point; the point is to communicate something. At the end of the day, the cards fall their own way. You can control some things, but I think the most important things in performance and life [are things] we really can’t control, and maybe it’s best to leave them that way.”