After Performing for the Queen, Mandela & the Pope, Composer Wesley Chu Discusses Zenkora Multiverse
The dude. Is. Unstoppable.
Calgary, Alberta-born but now Los Angeles-based composer-pianist Wesley Chu started hitting the keys at the tender age of three. And at five, he had already completed grades 1 to 10 of the RCM Examinations. At six, he performed at the Canada Day celebrations in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Then at ten, he completed his ARCT, making him the youngest pianist who has ever achieved this.
In short, Wesley quips, “It’s often been joked that my actual start of musical training began in the womb; my formal studies in classical piano followed almost inexorably. Indeed, my parents have maintained a steady musical career since their immigration to Canada: my mother as a piano teacher, and my father as choirmaster, conductor, and theory and vocal teacher.”
But Wesley’s story at that young age, was just getting started, as he has now performed piano around the world and also for people such as Nelson Mandela and the Pope. But, even though he has earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts as an International Artist Fellow from the Thornton School of Music/USC, he now sees his piano training as part of a much bigger picture, explaining:
“As an artist that believes in the unification of the arts, my greater ambitions lie far beyond the scope of my classical music training. Los Angeles is one of the great media-culture hubs of the world, where the line between the arts and entertainment are blurred, and where world class films and video games are produced alongside traditional fine art.”
Indeed, to underscore that blurring, Wesley has performed on piano for AOL Time Warner International at the 21st Hong Kong Film Awards, collaborated with international singers Andy Lau and William So, and Wesley has also released a CD under the Warner label. So, he is ideally positioned to explain how his newest ventures, like the Zenkora multiverse platform, combine the various arts, offering:
“Music is unique among artforms as it is exclusively an aural experience. For these reasons, music contributes to the storytelling effort by engaging our sense of hearing in a way that can only be spiritual and divorced from the earth. This also makes it the perfect complement to other artforms, the majority of which engage our visual or tactile senses instead.”
Moreover, pianist Wesley has grown up on visual fare including the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars to Indiana Jones, and also entertainments from Disney/Pixar (Snow White, Mulan, Toy Story, etc.), and a lot from the Cartoon Network (Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory).
That in turn, has led to his all-encompassing new artistic ventures which help further Wesley’s storytelling adventure. He is the creator and lead director of the Zenkora Universe, a platform that brings artists of all kinds together to tell stories set in a fictional fantasy universe. The multiverse itself is designed to be all-inclusive, and he explains:
“Zenkora is an artistic collective and an experiment with ambitious goals. It aspires to combine the best qualities from both the fine arts and popular entertainment, while working with unique narrative material as a holistically-world built expansive fantasy universe. It is an inter-arts experiment in collaboration, and a fresh take on the multimedia crossover epics that dominate our popular cultural landscape.”
For example, one exciting Zenkora production was The Seven Eras — a theatrical presentation that showcased a selection of the best stories, musical works, and dramatic pieces of Zenkora’s collective of artists.
Additionally, Wesley is the enthusiastic but humble co-founder, performer, arranger, and composer for Super Piano Brothers. Not long ago, he and producer/musician Alexander Zhu brought Super Piano Brothers to the Pasadena Conservatory of Music where they dramatically performed their Star Wars Piano Duel, which was co-written by them and inspired by the Star Wars film soundtracks, and by the music of Gustav Holst’s The Planets.
Above all, he admits, that both Super Piano Brothers and Zenkora were inspired from a “fiendish fascination of nerd culture,” explaining: “We see nerd culture as an unironically beautiful thing — the absolutely blissful escape from the trials and mundaneness of real-life into worlds of deeply engrossing and enriching fantasy. In Los Angeles, we are all storytellers here. Both Super Piano Brothers and Zenkora are collaborative endeavors, at heart; we believe the only thing better than a single storyteller is a team of them. We are all nerds and geeks, compelled to create more of the things we love, and driven to share them with a world of nerds and geeks.”
To sum up, Wesley has earned numerous musical awards and recognition, including: 1st Prize in 2008 from the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Concerto Competition; a prizewinner at the New England Conservatory of Music Piano Honors Competition; a USC International Artist Fellowship from 2016–2020; and the USC Arnold Schwarzenegger Prize in 2018.
But above all, in the City of Angels where everyone has a story to tell, Wesley Chu’s goal for Zenkora is help the multiverse become a household name like Star Wars, Marvel, or Harry Potter: “We’re starting with the concert experience to redefine the fine arts — no longer the antithesis of entertainment and fun, but their closest ally.”