Profile: Thomas Luke, pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

For me as a listener, there have been so many important musical influences that I feel if I were to name one, I’d have to name them all. I love to listen to any kind of music of any style, any time period, from any place in the world. There’s so much out there to explore and all of it has something new and unique for us to discover.

As a pianist, I’d have to say that some of my biggest influences as a player have included pianists such as Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich. They have such unique and individual artistic voices which are incredibly inspiring.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

As a school student, trying to find a sustainable balance between schoolwork and music practice has always been and continues to be a real battle. I always prioritise music above anything else, which often means I am cramming in school work whenever I have a spare moment. It can be incredibly busy and draining, so I have to make sure I am taking care of myself both mentally and physically.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Collaborating and playing with others is one of the best things about being a musician. It can be challenging to achieve a consistent collective artistic voice as an ensemble, especially when you’re working with players you’ve not worked with before, but it is incredibly fulfilling when the ensemble gels and you all play and perform as one force.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

Depending on when you ask me, the answer might change dramatically. If I absolutely had to choose, I could perhaps narrow it down to three: J. S. Bach, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. However, to be so generalist is to be inaccurate.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why?

I have never felt strong with any one particular composer or work. I enjoy embracing the variety of challenges that the piano repertoire has to offer.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I find this question very difficult to answer. I am always very critical of my performances, sometimes perhaps too much so, but as a result, I struggle to say I’m ever proud of them. I perform because I love playing music. I would play music regardless; a performance is just that people want to hear me play.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

Some of the most memorable experiences for me have come from listening because when I perform, I’m usually so in the flow in that moment that when I walk offstage for the final time, I’m completely drained and hardly remember any of what just happened!

I try to actively listen to music as much as possible and I have had so many memorable experiences listening to music. Obviously, how you react to a recording changes depending on your own mental state and the stimuli acting on you in that moment, so what does or doesn’t move you one time may have more or less of an impact another time.

I was lucky enough to see Yuja Wang perform with the Berlin Philharmonic at the BBC Proms a few years ago, which was a very memorable experience.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Honestly? Only do it if absolutely nothing else will make you happy.

How would you define success as a musician?

Being happy. That is always the most important thing, and I don’t think it is something that can necessarily be achieved through wealth or fame.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown? 

I found the lockdowns incredibly difficult. Whilst naturally I am extremely introverted, I have a strong sense of adventure. I really love travelling, going to new places and experiencing new things. Spending so long in the same place was something I found incredibly unstimulating. However, I did things to help myself realise how lucky I actually am, to have been born into such a position of privilege where I am safe and healthy, and a whole world of opportunity lies before me. I began running more seriously, and indulged in my passions (some might say obsessions) for music and Formula 1.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

It’s hard to say. The world is changing at such a rate that to predict what it will look like in 10 years’ time is difficult. However, I know that I want my role in the world to be one in which I am playing and performing music. I’d really like to travel and experience different places and cultures whilst doing it too.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For me, my idea of perfect happiness would probably be living in the cold mountains with people and animals who are very special to me. And there would be pianos too. Lots of pianos, and not necessarily all black ones.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Naturally, my pianos (Freddy and Domenico) are very important to me.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Either playing music or playing with our cats (Teddy and Rosie).

What is your present state of mind?

Semi-reflective boredom as I sit on the ferry back to the Isle of Wight… The word ‘boredom’ often carries negative connotations, but I find boredom, whilst not always immediately appealing, can allow me to investigate and learn more about something or myself.

Widely praised for his exceptional musicality and depth of interpretation, Thomas Luke is an award-winning 18-year-old pianist from the Isle of Wight whose performances have been broadcast on national television and radio.

Thomas was the keyboard category winner of the prestigious 2020 BBC Young Musician competition. Watch him playing. He has also recently been awarded first place in the 2021 Iris Dyer Piano Prize at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, and been recognised by the Vienna International Music Competition as possessing “outstanding talent, a remarkable musicality and a very accomplished technique”.

Thomas began piano lessons at the age of four and currently studies with Eleanor Hodgkinson at the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London. Thomas has been the recipient of the Richard Toeman Memorial Award for Young Pianists and a Robert Lewin Scholarship from Awards for Young Musicians.

Thomas also enjoys playing chamber music and composing, as well as maths, sciences and languages.

Recently he’s been playing with the Solent Symphony Orchestra.

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