Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to geek out and go all in for Star Wars and a neon backdrop of light sabers, from time to time?
Well-traveled composer/pianist Wesley Chu has performed classical music in front of famous people and around the world since he was knee-high to a grasshopper.
For example, Wesley has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra since the age of 4. At age 6, he played at Canada Day celebrations before Queen Elizabeth II. He performed with the National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela before Nelson Mandela at a United Nations gathering. And, in 1999, Wesley performed his composition “Christmas in Bethlehem” in the Vatican City with orchestra and choir for Pope John Paul II.
But, Wesley who earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts as an International Artist Fellow at the Thornton School of Music/USC, let his “hair down” and inner geek out when he and producer/musician Alexander Zhu brought Super Piano Brothers to the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. The duo performed their “Star Wars Piano Duel,” which was co-written by them and inspired by the music of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and by the Star Wars film soundtracks by John Williams.
Moreover, the result was exhilarating with Wesley enthusing, “Our latest Star Wars epic project stars our newest core member, inductee Alexander Zhu, whose expertise and love for this iconic science-fiction project was both figuratively and literally instrumental to its success. The neon lightsabers were a stroke of genius from our cinematic team, which consisted of Christine Zivic, Gabriela Spampinato, and Marilyne Lamontagne.”
Wesley is the proud co-founder, performer, arranger, and composer for Super Piano Brothers. Additionally, he’s the creator and lead director of the Zenkora Universe: “Zenkora is a worldbuilding project and platform that brings artists (like Esther Chu) of all kinds together to tell stories set in a fictional fantasy universe. The multiverse itself is designed to be all-inclusive, allowing our collective of artists to explore a nearly unlimited variety of topics and settings, while maintaining that special quality that only interconnected crossover stories possess. The goal is for Zenkora to become a household name like Marvel, Harry Potter, or Star Wars. To inspire people worldwide.”
For instance, in 2017, they held the second event of the Zenkora Concert Series, The Seven Eras—a theatrical presentation that showcased a selection of the best stories, musical works, and dramatic pieces of art from Zenkora’s collective. Wesley explains: “Without institutional backing, we managed to raise the equivalent of $30,000 dollars within five months. The end result exceeded our expectations in terms of both the support of our cast and crew and a bewildered but delighted audience.”
However, in spite of all his experience performing around the world and before dignitaries, he suggests that performing his own Super Piano Brothers or Zenkora productions always make him nervous. He quips: “Biting my fingernails backstage during the aforementioned Zenkora Concert was an experience I’ll never forget; as a lifelong performer, being onstage is nothing compared to placing your precious work in the hands of others. Trust is beautiful because it is precious, as I rediscovered that night—and will likely have to rediscover anew every event since, and when it is given to the right people, as I was blessed to be, it can only be described as exhilarating.”
Along his distinguished path, Wesley has earned numerous awards and recognition, including: 1st Prize in 2008 from the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Concerto Competition; a prizewinner at the New England Conservatory of Music Piano Honors Competition; a USC International Artist Fellowship from 2016-2020; and the USC Arnold Schwarzenegger Prize in 2018.
But growing up, Wesley was a classical musician who has geeked out on the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars to Indiana Jones, and on anything Disney/Pixar (Snow White, Mulan, Toy Story, etc.), and anything Cartoon Network (Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory, etc.).
Furthermore, he confesses: “Essentially all of the above; all of these films and stories were an escape into worlds that broadened my imagination and filled me with wonder. In my mind, if it could be seen on screen, it was something that could conceivably happen, never mind the obvious departures from reality. That always served as a symbol that the ‘greater’ was possible, and maybe even within reach.”
Certainly, that sense of artistic escapism is at the heart of his dynamic new ventures: “Both Zenkora and Super Piano Brothers are borne out of that fiendish fascination of nerd culture, the absolutely blissful escape from the mundanities and trials of real-life into worlds of deeply engrossing and enriching fantasy.”
As for his upcoming future, Wesley Chu, who cuts an impressive and dramatic figure in performance, says he wants to continue inspiring young people like he was thrilled, growing up: “We want to be icon of fantasy that thrills, enchants, and uplifts, and a resident of the imagination of children even as they grow into adulthood.”
Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.