Cedarburg – In the moments before students packed into his Webster Transitional School for the first time this school year, a band teacher reflected on a unique soul whose original music he will miss this time around.
“I knew the day he walked into my classroom in fifth grade, picked up percussion and started playing an incredibly challenging piece like it was no big deal that David Lui was something special,” said David Aswegan, who teaches band and general music at Webster and the district’s elementary schools. “We will miss him, but he’s already moved on and made the jazz ensemble at the high school as a freshman, which is a pretty rare feat.”
Lui, who started playing piano at the age of 4, performed Aug. 20 at the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) Student Composition Reception, where he was also recognized for his original composition “Dogfight Rag.”
“I didn’t really think I’d win any awards or anything, so that was pretty cool,” said Lui, who earned the title of “Best Piano Solo” in the middle school division earlier this year. There is also a high school division in the competition, which allows students to compete in areas like instrumental solo and ensemble, instrumental jazz and vocal solo or ensemble.
The award names him one of the best composers in the state, yet Lui remains humble. He said he’s always enjoyed the art of music and has a particular fondness for the works of James Horner and Hans Zimmer.
“There is so much beautiful music out there that is such an inspiration,” said 14-year-old Lui, who also plays the violin. “Usually I hear something in my head first, and then I write it or play it.”
Watching how the compositions came together really struck Aswegan, who said it’s been an honor to watch Lui develop a sense of creativity through the process.
“I couldn’t believe how every time I saw him in a room with a piano he’d always be playing something I didn’t recognize with no music in front of him,” said Aswegan, who was the driving force behind Lui’s decision to enter the competition. “I’d ask him what he was playing and he’d say ‘oh, just something I’m working on,’ like it was no big deal.”
Before school let out for the summer, Aswegan had Lui play his winning piece for his eighth-grade class.
“I couldn’t believe the looks on the faces of his fellow students that day he played for them,” Aswegan recalled. “The room was silenced by his phenomenal performance.”