Katherine Li has made PGSO history twice.
Last year, she became part of the first tie ever experienced by the Prince George Symphony Orchestra's panel of judges in their annual PGSO-Integris Youth Concerto Competition. The fact she tied with her sister Nancy was a bonus curio of fate.
Then, when this year's competition was held, she set record number two, becoming the first to ever repeat as winner. She took the 2015-16 title only days after claiming her prize from the previous year - performing (as did her sister) with the orchestra at the Mother's Day Tea special concert event. She will be right back there again next Mother's Day.
"I practiced a lot, and the piece I competed with this year was also the piece I played at the Mother's Day Tea, so that was good practice, too, for when I performed for the judges," said Li, a Grade 10 student at D.P. Todd Secondary School. The winning effort was her piano recital of Joseph "Papa" Haydn's Concerto In D-Major.
When Li says she practices a lot, it underplays her dedication to the craft of music.
"I do band at school with (teacher) Susan Klein. I do piano lessons with Lori Elder once a week, and I practice an hour-and-a-half to two hours each day. At school I'm in the senior concert band, the senior jazz band, the junior jazz band and I play clarinet in the school's wind ensemble," she said. "I'm basically playing music all day, every day."
She is also active and successful in academics, sports, and speech arts.
Her success goes back to childhood when she was quickly recognized in local music circles as a performer to keep on the radar. Her local teachers have included David Sproule, Angela Alba, Tatyana Ribnitska, a significant part of her theory lessons from Donna Macluskie and her current practical teacher is Elder.
The PGSO has known her name for years. The orchestra's general manager Jeremy Stewart said, "Katherine has received multiple awards and scholarships for the Prince George Music Festival. She has been selected several times to represent Prince George at the BC Performing Arts Festival. She has received runner up in Junior Canadian Piano at the BC Performing Arts Festival and will be attending the festival again this year. She was selected as one of the players in this year's District Honour Band, and last year, she travelled with her school's band to Toronto for MusicFest Canada and earned a gold standing. Katherine hopes to continue playing the piano and enjoying music for the rest of her life."
"I think I always want to have music in my life, but not as a job," Li said. She says that at 16, she still has a long way to go before deciding on a career path, so she's just going to focus on the things she loves to do and let some more education and life-experience inform her decision later.
She deepens that experience pool this week when she travels to Fort St. John to compete and learn at the Performing Arts BC Festival.
"I'll be competing in Intermediate Piano and Intermediate Canadian Piano," she said.
Nancy will be going to the festival as well, but for Speech Arts prowess. Their other sister, Grace, will also be in Fort St. John representing Prince George in the Junior Piano division, underscoring all the more how performing arts in the Li household is thoroughly a family activity.