U/D’s Notable Northwest series focuses on dynamic, noteworthy individuals from around Calgary’s Northwest, offering professional insights across a range of topics and each contributing to describing the spirit, opportunities and legacy of the Northwest.
This month, meet one such character: Derek Chiu, internationally celebrated pianist and Northwest Calgary community member, and named by Steinway & Sons as one of the Top Teachers in Calgary for 2016. He has performed solo and chamber recitals throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe, in addition to multiple orchestral engagements with the Windsor Community Orchestra, Briercrest College, and Rockland Symphony Orchestras. Chiu has more recently been invited to perform two Mozart concertos in 2016 and 2017 with The Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra in their inaugural season.
Where do you live in the Northwest? How long have you been there?
I grew up in the Northwest community of Dalhousie. After graduating from Sir Winston Churchill High School, I spent the next 13 years living in Windsor, Ontario then New York City. I returned to Calgary in 2008 and bought a home in Royal Oak.
How would you describe the artistic community within the Northwest? Is it active and growing?
The artistic community in Northwest Calgary has a strong grassroots movement. In the Northwest, we have some of the most respected arts educators in the city. These mentors have won awards locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. Artistic success begins with arts education and there is no shortage of excellence in educators in the Northwest.
Many children in the Northwest participate in music, speech arts, art, dance, theatre and literary studies. There is a lot of home grown talent from this part of the city including award winning composer and pianist Heather Schmidt and acclaimed comic artist Fiona Staples. Northwest Calgary is easily accessible to the residence of Airdrie and Cochrane. Students from these communities often travel to Northwest Calgary to pursue their training in the arts.
The University of Calgary School of Creative and Performing Arts in located here and the faculty is world renowned. The professors are internationally recognized musicians. The Rozsa Centre: Eckhardt–Gramatté Hall is one of Canada’s most beautiful small performing venues. The space is a sought after performing venue and hosts the Honens International Piano Competition.
And let’s not forget that Northwest Calgary is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. The Banff Centre is an internationally renowned performing arts space. Visitors enjoy performing arts, visual and digital exhibitions, Indigenous Arts, Literary Arts and Digital Media. It’s a one of a kind space where artists from around the world travel to for residency, collaboration, study and performance.
How has the Northwest community grown and changed since you’ve been living it?
I feel that Northwest Calgary has changed very little since I was a kid. There were and continue to be major infrastructure changes such as the LRT, removing the traffic lights on Crowchild Trail, addition of Stoney Trail, University expansion and the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The city has spread out further, however it is very easy and efficient to travel in the Northwest.
Despite the changes, the older neighborhoods of Northwest Calgary remain unchanged. Varsity, Silver Springs, Dalhousie, Charleswood, Rosewood and Sunnyside are quaint neighborhoods. These neighborhoods offer many beautiful walking trails and the Christmas Light show at Confederation Park is an experience I have enjoyed for years.
How would you describe the atmosphere and the spirit of the Northwest of the city?
Northwest Calgary is a small town within a big city. It's a great area to raise a family with the many family-centered venues. I find it to be the easiest of the four quadrants to travel to and within. Traffic is minimal and the LRT allows for quick access to downtown Calgary. The highways to Canmore, Banff and Edmonton are easily accessible. There are many gems in Northwest Calgary.
Because of my career, I am always on the hunt for local eats, stores and places to golf. We are lucky in the Northwest to have world class eats including NOtaBLES in Montgomery and The Bears Den in Bearspaw. Kensington Wine Market has a fine collection of wines and hard to find aquired tastes. And the golf courses in this part of the city are impressive: Lynx Ridge, Springbank Links and Hamptons Golf and Country Club are three of my favorites.
Northwest Calgary is a vibrant community that is made up of a diverse range of cultures, age groups and beliefs. Community projects, volunteering, festivals and events are common which unite those who live here — Northwest Calgary is an inclusive community.
Where do you draw inspiration musically and what moves you forward?
My late grandfather Ng Po Wan (1904 – 2001), a recognized Chinese painter is one of my greatest influences. He believed that “The prerequisite of an artist is a lifelong endeavor for art” and instilled that in his family. He painted daily and paintings show his enduring spirit and optimism for life.
I have one desire when it comes to studying music and being a pianist–that is to simply improve every day. I build relationships with people who can teach and share something with me. I believe that there is no end to acquiring knowledge whether it is at the piano, in math, languages or anything. An artist evolves with the knowledge they acquire combined with personal experiences. This excites me.
And as a Northwestern community focused on continuous growth, enrichment and inspired learning, it excited us too. To learn more about Derek, follow him on Twitter @DerekChiuPiano.