Dr. Mark Liu—Someone You Should Know

March 2017 View more

For someone who thought he would end up as an accountant, Dr. Mark Liu has done pretty well as a musician. Instead of counting numbers he counts time as both orchestra director at Metea Valley High School and director and conductor of the Youth Symphony of DuPage.

“I didn’t think I would be a professional musician, although I’ve always loved music,” says Dr. Liu. “I thought I’d go into accounting or physics, but when I reached my sophomore year I felt it was OK, that I was mature enough, to do what I wanted for the rest of my life.”

Born in Taiwan and brought up in San Diego, as a child Dr. Liu played cello for fun. “My mom says I never had a problem practicing. I remember growing up like a lot of teenagers, rebellious and emotional, but every time I felt stressed I would go straight to my cello,” he says. “Music always gave me a satisfying way of reducing stress.”

Dr. Liu received his Bachelor of Arts in music education at Wheaton College in 2001, a Master of music with orchestral conducting emphasis from Northwestern University in 2006 and a Doctorate in musical arts education from Boston University in 2016. “I realized I didn’t just love music, I discovered my passion is teaching,” he says. “I am an educator first and then a cellist or conductor second.”

As conductor of the Youth Symphony of DuPage, Dr. Liu inspires exceptional children from grade, middle and high schools from all over the county. “I tell them if you are looking for inspiration to follow your heart. That way you’ll find joy in everything you do,” he says. “They have to love it, but have determination too. I like to remind them that music is not always fun, but the harder they work the more fun it will be. Struggle is not failure. It’s an opportunity to improve and learn more about themselves.”

One of Dr. Liu’s students, Brandon Jackson, finds him to be a great inspiration. Jackson, who is the Symphony’s second violin, says: “He’s a great guy to work with. He is very open to new ideas and very energetic. It’s a lot of fun to have his music enthusiasm, my music enthusiasm and the orchestra’s music enthusiasm explode together.”

Music influences all aspects of Dr. Liu’s life. He says it’s made him more open-minded and appreciate the small details. “Those are transferable skills. It makes me feel successful and validates what I do,” he says.

Dr. Liu’s inspiration is the world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, whom he has met on several occasions. “He is an amazing performer, but also an amazing educator—that’s the kind of influencer I want to be,” he says.

Dr. Liu believes many musicians are introverts, which he agrees may sound strange when performance is what they strive for. “When you see a student performing in a concert, they may be on stage for a total of forty-five minutes. They may play in a piece that is just fifteen minutes long,” he explains. “But what you don’t see is the thousands of hours of work they have put in to reach that moment. They get one shot then they have to go back and start work on another piece of music.

“I consider myself an introvert because I am comfortable being myself but through music I can be who I am; I can express myself through music better than I can through words.”

Stellar Gala X Concert
The Youth Symphony of DuPage will present its tenth-annual Stellar Gala concert at 8:00 p.m. on March 10 at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville. Guest soloist Robert Chen has been concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1999. The program includes the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Schubert’s eighth symphony and Sibelius’ Finlandia. For tickets and info visit ysdp.org.