Maggie Lu is already an award-winning professional musician, artist and writer.
That should be exceptional enough, given that the young South Surrey resident has three years to go before she finishes her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition at UBC.
But it’s off-the-chart amazing when you consider that Lu is still only 16 years old.
Speaking with the mature-sounding prodigy during a recent phone interview it’s interesting how modest and matter-of-fact she is about her accomplishments.
Lu who plays piano, also enjoys writing poetry and fiction, doing photography and creating art in her preferred media of pencils and watercolours.
Describing her activities as “very rewarding,” she says part of her aim in publicizing them is to “promote art as a meaningful activity for other people.”
“If I can inspire people, that really means a lot to me,” she said. “If, through what I do, I can help someone reach their potential, or realize they have potential, that makes me happy. I think everyone is creative – that’s an important part of humanity.”
Born in Vancouver, she moved to Surrey with her family when she was eight years old, she explained, attending Woodward’s Hill Elementary and Highland Elementary.
When asked how she got to UBC at age 14, she replies simply, “I skipped a bunch of grades.”
In fact, at age 12 she bypassed Grades 8, 9 and 10, and entered a Grade 11 and 12 program geared for early admission to UBC.
Her gifts were manifest early, she acknowledges.
“All of these things were part of my life very early on – as far back as I can remember,” she said.
“I was around four or five when I first started taking piano lessons. Art started as soon as I could hold a pencil. When I was 11, I started teaching art at my elementary school, and then started selling my art and poetry online.”
Racking up more than 17,000 followers to date, her art work has been purchased by buyers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Belgium, the Czech Republic and Australia. Her photograph, Crystalline – taken when she was 14 – won a commendation in the World Photography Organization/Sony World Photography Awards and was featured in an international exhibition in Somerset House in the U.K.
She was a published author by the time she was 11 – the same year she won a Rotary Club-sponsored Get To Know Poetry Prize – and she has won bronze in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition as well as contributing content to the Ubyssey (UBC’s magazine).
Her musical accomplishments alone would set her apart – she was still in elementary school when she gained a diploma in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory and 10 years old when she performed with South Surrey-based band The Wilds in one of their concerts to promote environmental sustainability.
Her performance and composition won her scholarships for her simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degrees, her solo performances have raised money for the Vancouver Food Bank, several hospitals and the Canadian Music therapy Trust Fund and her music has reached such diverse venues as the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts, the Goldcorp Centre, Pyatt Hall and the Roy Barnett Recital Hall.
Lu said it’s hard for her to pick a favourite out of her many activities – they’re all too closely linked in her mind, she explained.
“I associate music with visual colours and textures – it’s a form of synesthesia,” she said.
“All of them come from my passion for expression and creativity – they’re not really separate things, but different ways of expressing myself.”
If any one of the disciplines is receiving less of her attention these days it would be poetry – there are only so many hours in the day, Lu notes.
But as well as having a good relationship with her highly supportive parents, she also has “a wonderful group of friends,” she said.
“I do do these things, but I’m not sacrificing my social life,” she noted.
Since she’s just old enough to start learning to drive, she finds a lot of her time taken up with the transit commute to UBC – two hours each way.
But typically, she doesn’t see that as a negative.
“It’s a chance to clear my mind, looking out of the window,” she said.
“A lot of my imaginative ideas come from that – both artistic ideas and musical ideas.”