Van Cliburn

Cliburn confidential: Meet Steven Lin

Cliburn confidential

27 of 30

A series of conversations with the Cliburn competitors

Steven Lin

Nationality: American

Born: Arcadia, Calif.

Lives: New York

Age: 24

Whole lotta shakin’ going on: When Steven Lin plays, the earth moves.

At least that was the case during one of his recitals in Japan last year. About midway through the first movement of Haydn’s Sonata in C Major (a work Lin will be playing in the preliminary round of the Cliburn), an earthquake struck the area. But a video of the performance on YouTube shows that Lin never misses a note, even as the camera is shaking violently.

How he stayed focused on his Haydn in the middle of an earthquake: “I don’t really know how I maintained my concentration,” he says by email. “I just tried my best to keep playing at the time. It went by so quickly, so I didn’t really realize that it was an earthquake till it stopped shaking.”

Most memorable concert appearance thus far? “Most ‘memorable’ performance,” he says, “is the earthquake performance. Haha.”

What’s the hardest thing about being a talented musician? “To be honest, I don’t exactly know if I’m talented,” says Lin, who began playing the piano at age 7.

Nonmusical interests and hobbies: They include basketball, swimming and video games. “I love to hang out with friends and play basketball when I’m not playing piano, which is probably the worst sport for a pianist,” he says. “My favorite basketball player is Kobe [Bryant], and I’m a Lakers fan.”

On how he had to find a way to balance his love for sports and the piano: “I’ve always loved to perform, but I never had the dedication and concentration to practice throughout pre-college,” says Lin in his Cliburn application. “I’ve always loved playing soccer and basketball. I would always go out after school to play while my colleagues in Juilliard [were] practicing. It wasn’t until [my] junior year of high school that I realized how important performing was to me.”

On living in New York, where he studied at The Juilliard School with Cliburn juror Veda Kaplinsky: “I’ve lived in New York for the past six years of my life and have come to love the city, the culture and the diversity,” he says.

What music means to him: “Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I long to bring others to a sense of unity through a similar love, which for me is classical music,” he states in his Cliburn application.

— Punch Shaw, Special to the Star-Telegram