Pianist flies across the globe to perform with orchestra

Henry Wong Doe has performed in prestigious locations across the world, but there is nothing quite like showcasing his talents at home.

4 September 2018

The University of Auckland alumnus is a phenomenal pianist who has lit up a number of stages, including Carnegie Hall, New York, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore, and the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, Israel.

He recently flew from New York, where he is based, to play in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and hosted a masterclass for School of Music students.

He says performing with the orchestra was an honour.

“It was an awesome experience.  I had been practising my part for months beforehand and, when the first rehearsal began, it was so inspiring and uplifting to hear all of the parts in combination with mine.

“That is definitely the most rewarding part of the journey – finally hearing everything come together in rehearsal and being transported to another place as a result of the collaboration. The final performance was certainly memorable for sure, but nothing beats that first experience when you finally get to play with the orchestra after the preparation.”

Wong Doe graduated in 1998 and travelled to the United States to pursue his passion. He gained his masters at Indiana University Bloomington, before earning a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Juilliard School in New York. He is now a Professor of Piano and Keyboard Area Chair at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Some of his inspiration comes from other musicians, but he also draws on other creative disciplines, such as figure skating. 

“Although many musicians inspire me, I am also inspired by other artists, athletes and professionals who work tirelessly on their craft to present it to an audience or at an event where the stakes are high. In fact, sportspeople such as tennis players and figure skaters are hugely inspirational to me. The hours of training, focus and practice required to perfect a skill, to be tested or demonstrated at one specific instant, is extremely inspiring to me. There are many parallels in those disciplines to music.”

Wong Doe has released four commercial recordings. His latest album, Pictures, was released in August 2017 and was included in the New Zealand Herald’s top 10 Classical CDs for 2017. He says his time at the University of Auckland is what commenced his successful career. 

I learned a lot from all of my teachers there, especially my piano teacher, Bryan Sayer. His teaching really developed my listening and critical skills.”

He says his peers were also extremely influential and enjoyed working with them in the orchestra and chamber settings. 

“I made great friends and colleagues throughout my studies. I’ve continued contact with them and they have gone on to do great things. There was great camaraderie during my studies at the University, which is essential for successful learning and collaborating.  

“I am extremely grateful for the support of the University of Auckland for my studies and for their continued support when I am back in New Zealand. I am grateful for the music department for invitations to perform or teach over the last 10 – 15 years.”