Bruce Xu brings youthful perspective to classical organ

He may not yet be old enough to have a driver’s license, but high school Organ student Bruce Xu is already burning up the road, making a name for himself across the southeast as an accomplished musician and formidable competitor. A student of Dr. Timothy Olsen, Xu won top prizes at six organ competitions this year alone. 

He took home first prize in the UNCSA/Salem College High School Organ Festival & Competition and the Hymn prize, Atlanta AGO Chapter RCYO/Quimby Competition, Greater Columbia AGO Chapter Young Organist Competition and the Hymn prize, East Carolina University Young Artist Organ Competition and the Bach prize, and the L. Cameron Johnson Memorial Organ Competition and the audience prize.

Xu’s sixth win at the Southeast Region RCYO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists earned him a performance spot at the 2018 National American Guild of Organists convention in Kansas City, Missouri. 

You began organ lessons at the age of 9. What interested you in the organ?

I first played piano, then learned about the organ through my local church. God gave me the interest, and my dad helped me to pursue it.

Why did you choose to attend UNCSA?

I came to North Carolina for the first time to compete in the high school organ competition that Dr. Olsen hosts each year. The resources this school has to offer were appealing to me. My hometown had no pipe organs for me to play on, so I knew I could excel faster and more efficiently here.

The resources this school has to offer were appealing to me. My hometown had no pipe organs for me to play on, so I knew I could excel faster and more efficiently here. 

Bruce Xu 

What is unique about studying at an arts school with multiple conservatories?

It’s special to study alongside other people who are pursuing other forms of art. I like how we all share the same “artist” life in one way or another. I can interact with others as I wish. For example, I had the opportunity to work with a Cinematography student when he photographed my organ practice for this feature. 

What is your favorite piece of music to perform?

This is hard! I love Bach the most, so I will say “Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582.” It’s really good—especially on the Fisk organ in Crawford Hall. I’ve spent many hours on it. I think it comes from God, so it speaks to me.

Bruce Xu performing in Crawford Hall

Bruce Xu performs “Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582” in Crawford Hall at UNCSA.

What upcoming performances or competitions are you looking forward to?

I finished two back-to-back performances in South Carolina a few weeks ago, and I have applied for the Taylor Organ Competition in Atlanta, Georgia, which will be held next spring. I am also a choir member with the UNCSA Cantata Singers, and we perform on December 10. 

What is the best advice you ever received?

Get a boost of energy by eating a banana half an hour before you perform. (Read more performance advice.)

by Hannah Callaway

November 22, 2017