Interview with Robert Liu, the MSO’s first Conducting Scholar


Robert Liu is a passionate and talented young conductor and the first Conducting Scholar of the Manukau Symphony Orchestra. The MSO interviewed Robert to see what makes the 17 year old tick.

When and why did you become a conductor?

I started conducting at the age of 14, and soon fell in love with this profession. At the same time, I formed an orchestra at the school and conducted it myself. For two years, the orchestra rehearsed pieces such as Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, Brahms’s “Hungarian Dance no.5”, Strauss’s “Radezky’s March”, movie themes such as “Chariots of fire”, “Forrest Gump” and “Star Wars” performing at both school and the community. While proceeding with my high school studying, I read and browsed a large amount of musical scores and performance/ rehearsal recordings.

Who are you studying with?

In 2022, I was very fortunate to become a student of the famous celebrated conductor, Professor Maestro Uwe Grodd who is also the Music director and conductor of the Manukau Orchestral Society.(MSO) It was an opportunity which allowed me to interact and enter the real professional world of conducting . Since then, my conducting skills and professional knowledge have improved “miles”. This improved my confidence and artistic maturity as a young conductor . At the end of 2022, I was able to work with the Manukau Symphony Orchestra and conducted Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony during their final rehearsal. 

You have already made progress on the International stage. Tell us more about that.

Well I was extremely lucky, to have the opportunities to work with some top level orchestras in Europe, conducting some of the most difficult programmes in the repertoire. Honestly, the past eight months of my life could be truly considered as the absolute highlight of my life. Earlier this year, I conducted Mussorgsky’s pictures at an exhibition, Brahms symphony no.1, no.4 and Beethoven 5 with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orquestra Costa Atlantica (The Atlantic Coast Symphony Orchestra) in Czech Republic and Portugal. They were live concerts! In front of European audiences. As a New Zealand conductor it is something absolutely fascinating, and of course intense! It was not easy, in fact very tricky works for conductors, especially young conductors! But being able to conduct such works as a young conductor is an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and excitement.

Robert Liu conducting the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra 2023.

What are the current challenges you are working on?

Currently, I have been invited to conduct the Berlin Sinfonietta in September as part of Maestro Collin Metter’s masterclass in Berlin. The repertoire consists of some of the all time classics such as Mendelssohn symphony no.4, Mozart symphony no.35, (Haffner) Haydn symphony no.44 and Beethoven’s Coriolan overture. I will be studying and working on these pieces with professor Uwe Grodd as my studyings with him and use this great opportunity to keep developing my skills and experiences…

What are your dreams and ambitions?

Well it is hard to say, I like to have dreams and of course I describe myself as an ambitious person. I always say, “Dream as big as you can, work as much as you can, but expect as little as possible”. My current ambition is to pass the entrance examination of the European Conservatories I will be auditioning for, keep on applying for and hopefully get into different projects, and soon be able to receive a position as an assistant conductor or even associate conductor in a major mainstream European orchestra! However, my biggest dream will be to one day conduct the best orchestras in the world such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orkest, NHK Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Or becoming the principal conductor of some of the great German orchestras like the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern, Berliner Symfoniker or the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. There is just always something about the great sound of these traditional German orchestras that fascinates me very much, that it eventually becomes my absolute biggest dream to work with them long term!

2024 Youth Scholarship applications are currently open until 20th October 2023. For more information, visit our Scholarships page here.

Follow Robert Liu’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.