Erina Tamada-Wu ’15 uses musical talents both as a performer and mentor

photo: Annie Gao

Erina Tamada-Wu ’15 is a pianist in the Princeton High School Orchestra. She has been playing the piano for 11 years and has won numerous awards, from small, local prizes to first place in national competitions, including the Crescendo International Piano Competition and the 2014 National League of Performing Arts Concerto Competition. Throughout her musical career, she has experimented with different styles, having played both classical and jazz. She will be attending the University of Michigan next fall and is considering a minor in music.

What are your favorite styles when it comes to piano music?

[My favorite style is] definitely classical. I tried jazz a little bit, and I failed … I did it for two years, and it was fun. I was in Jazz Ensemble, but I didn’t know how to improvise or play the chords or anything. I was used to [playing] classical for so many years, and I kind of just let [jazz] go, but it was still fun to learn. I definitely like classical a lot. Specifically, … I like Romantic music because there’s so much emotion and passion in what the composers are writing. What they write is just so beautiful and nice to play, like with all of the melodies. It’s fun.

Are you involved with any piano-related school activities?

I’ve been in the Princeton High School Orchestra for three years, and recently, I played the third movement of the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor with them … I also did Jazz Ensemble for two years. I also do this Music Mentoring community service project, and it’s … a community service project to help younger children with basic music. They just started learning their instruments, and we just instruct them like, ‘What’s this note?’ or ‘What’s the rhythm?’ and stuff like that, so it’s fun. I started [the project] in sophomore year, and it meets every Tuesday from 3:00 to 4:30. We go over to the middle school, and we meet with elementary school kids there … Then, junior and senior year, I was co-leaders with Freddie Levine [’15]. It’s just a fun project to be a part of, and it’s nice to give back.

Piano is more of a solo instrument than others. What do you enjoy most about playing in a group?

Since it’s such a solo instrument, it’s good to feel like a part of a team. We have violins, cellos, violas, bass, the piano section, all that, but without any one of those, I feel like we wouldn’t be complete.

How has playing in a group, in particular Princeton High School Orchestra, helped you develop as a musician as opposed to solo performance?

It’s definitely caused me to become more aware of all of the other instruments around me. There’s not just piano; there are so many other great instruments … I have to consider all the other instruments and make sure everything’s in sync with everyone else.

What do you hope to accomplish through playing the piano?

I want to do it for myself and be able to make people feel a certain way, definitely like they feel like they’re part of the music when they listen to me play. That’s a goal that I’ve always wanted [to accomplish as] a performer, but I also want to do this for myself because I’m quite shy … Being able to play the piano lets me get out some of my emotions or be able to play freely. It’s just something that lets me be myself.

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