Artist of the Issue: Ricky Shi ’23


Ricky Shi '23

Shi played Rachmaninoff’s Moment Musicaux No.4 during the masterclass with Lang Lang.

Ricky Shi ’23, a three-year Upper Mid from Shanghai, China studies piano. He won the 2019 Music Teachers National Association Competition in the Senior Piano division.

What is it about music that makes you feel passionate?

As I dove deeper into piano, I realized there is so much more to it than what everyone else wants from it. When you put your own feelings and emotions into a piece, music gives you so much more power. That made me realize that piano could be a powerful tool to inspire myself and others. Ever since, I could not give up piano.


How have you overcome  challenges in your music career? 

Playing the piano itself isn’t necessarily a challenge, but my relationship with the piano is the hardest part. There have been many times when I thought about giving up. The biggest challenge for me was last year. Due to the pandemic, I did not play piano for about a year and a half. Both my mental health and my physical health declined, while others’ expectations of me increased. While I really wanted to do well, not everything was keeping up, and I ended up taking an entire year and a half off, just wanting to find that feeling of power again. Fortunately, I found the feeling in songwriting. I wrote a lot more during the pandemic and that helped me realize how much power I have.

Was it hard to pick up piano again after a long break?

It indeed was hard. I felt like I could not get back to the level where I used to be, and that was a huge mental pressure for me whenever I attended  my lesson. Luckily, I remembered how Mr. Fabio Witkowski, [head of the visual and performing arts department], always told me, “Don’t deny the things you’ve already achieved. Just because you’re a little messy right now, doesn’t mean that you have not grown.” I realized that a year off wasn’t really a year off, but it was a year of growth in another way. Getting back to the piano was more of an exciting thing. Failure is part of music too. All renowned musicians have taken breaks at some point in their lives, and they’re going to go back to it again – with better skills and growth.

How has the school helped you grow as a pianist?

The school gave me another perspective to look at my piano playing, and a stable environment. Here at the school, I hear different interpretations of music, learn many ways to approach music, and work with numerous supporting teachers to guide me throughout my music journey. Additionally, there are friends here with whom I share music..

What is your favorite piece of music to play?

There are so many other talented composers that I cannot pick a favorite. In general, I love works by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Franz Liszt. However, Alexander Scriabin would definitely be the composer that I love most at the moment.

How was your experience having a masterclass with Lang Lang? Has it impacted your musical thinking in any way?

Masterclasses are always interesting to me. They usually go in two ways, no in-betweens. It’s either that I hate the teachers, or that I get surprised at the things the teacher points out. The masterclass with Lang Lang would definitely be the second one. It was really inspiring to attend a masterclass with such a renowned pianist and his guidance helped make so many things much clearer for me. When he pointed out my problems, he cut straight to the core of the issues. I love these kinds of opportunities because music is a really obscure thing, and there is no specific correct answer to what it should sound like.

What advice would you give to younger students who are pursuing music interests at the school?

Be creative, organic, and open-minded about music. Instead of having music grow in you, you should grow with music. You have to be a human first, then a musician. When young musicians feel like they’re not improving or hitting technical difficulties, there are always two things you can do. First, take everything slowly and take one step at a time. Second, encourage yourself more, and do not criticize yourself nor push yourself too hard.