Biography

Biography

“A brilliant pianist” (The Times of London), Martin Leung is ushering in a new era of music. He makes our globe a more joyful place. His piano solos have emerged as historic in both live and recorded performances, and they have changed the way we think of music.

At age 17 Leung globalized the concept of the solo artist in game music concerts, at a time when groups were the norm in a niche scene. He launched in a popular online video in 2004, more than a year before the official launch of YouTube. It was a blindfolded performance of the classic Super Mario Bros. theme, and a spirited Mario medley.

Two years later Eurofusion News called him “one of gaming’s biggest cult heroes.”
On 19 October 2007, the highest rated video on YouTube Japan was the Super Mario Medley.

Martin is known as Video Game Pianist™, a title he made out of two longtime joys: piano and video games. Before his invention, there was no accepted label for what he was doing. Now 30, he is seen as one of the first pianists to take video game music as a performing art and to develop a piano collection of themes that he plays globally. His works show a deep debt to classical music.

Martin is ranked as the third most famous Yale School of Music alumni. From 2005-2012 Martin played in seventeen countries and five continents with Video Games Live. In 2008 he recorded Tetris Piano Opus No. 1 (EMI Classics); Wired editor Chris Kohler calls it “excellent.” In 2011 BBC Radio 4 (UK) used his Tetris arrangement in “Bleep Bleep Bloop: Music and Video Games,” and Radio Nacional de Colombia interviewed him in a live broadcast of “Pianist creates works from video game music.”

The first video-game-music solo recital Martin performed publicly was in 2005 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas—replete with 21 encores. He has played at PAX, Brasil Game Show, E3, and Games Convention at Leipzig, Germany, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Indianapolis Comic Con, San Francisco Comic Con, BlizzCon, 1st annual Canadian Video Game Awards, Game Developers Conference, Biz-eSports Summit, and San Francisco’s Walk of Game. At the 2007 Game Audio Network Guild Awards, he performed Super Mario Bros. themes in the presence of Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Koji Kondo.

He has been featured in Nintendo Power and Steinway & Sons magazines. Tom Hoover profiled him in Soundtrack Nation: Interviews with Today’s Top Professionals in Film, Videogame, and Television Scoring (2010).

In 2011 he made concerto debuts with the symphony orchestras of Saskatoon and Regina led by Victor Sawa. With those symphonies he played Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1, respectively. He has given the world premiere of “Poem of the Adventurer” by Michael Glenn Williams at the Nokia Theatre. The piece was written for Martin and published in International Piano. He received shared first prize at the University of Cincinnati CCM Art of the Piano Competition in 2011. He also performed at the SevenCG space at the Brasil Game Show in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2012 Martin began his Doctor of Musical Arts program in piano performance at the University of Southern California (USC). He performed at the grand opening of USC’s Cammilleri Hall with USC President C. L. Max Nikias in attendance. Martin participated in the Art of the Piano summer festival at the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music. Martin won first place in the Theta Music Winter Games, a worldwide online ear-training competition.

In 2013 Martin performed Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra and conductor Victor Sawa. He also won the USC concerto competition. Also, Martin performed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic International Committee in Beverly Hills, CA.

In 2014, Martin performed Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the University of Southern California Symphony Orchestra and conductor Carl St. Clair. He gave a Super Mario music lecture-recital at USC. He also performed at the Tampa Bay Comic Con. Also, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Martin participated in an “Up Close and Personal” community clinic and performed in a lecture-demonstration about the capabilities of the Yamaha Disklavier.

In 2015, Martin performed at Indianapolis Comic Con in March. In April he performed for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County Women’s Committee. In November, he gave his USC graduation recital, performing Schubert Sonata in C Minor, D. 958, Fourteen Chopin Waltzes, and the Super Mario Galaxy – Family waltz.

In 2016 Martin won the Zoltán Rozsnyai Memorial Prize at the Los Angeles International Liszt Piano Competition, Division VII (Concerto). As a result of winning first prize in the competition, Martin has been invited to play Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in November 2017 with the Akademisches Orchester Leipzig and maestro Horst Förster. Martin performed recitals at the Jonathan Club, at a “Let Us Entertain You!” auctioned house concert in Pacific Palisades, CA, Penny Arcade Expo, San Francisco Comic Con, Biz eSports Summit, and GamesBeat Summit. In September, Martin became an adjunct professor of music at Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC), where he teaches piano to both music and non-music majors.

In 2017 Martin gave classical music recitals at Pepsico Recital Hall at Texas Christian University, the White Rock Theatre in Hastings, England, the Indian Well Theatre Palm Desert, a private house concert in Newport Beach, and at Feddersen Recital Hall at Mt. SAC. He also performed at Biz eSports Summit.

Martin Leung holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM ’08, pupil of Paul Schenly and Daniel Shapiro), the Yale School of Music (MM ’10, pupil of Claude Frank), and the University of Southern California (DMA ‘15, pupil of Stewart Gordon). He currently studies with Myong-joo Lee. Previous teachers have included Otmaro Ruiz, Ory Shihor, Scott McBride Smith, and Marilyn Shields.

Martin began piano lessons when he was 3. At 6 he won the gold medal for a performance of Heitor Villa-Lobos’s “La Moda da Carranquinha.” He is an Oberlin International Piano Competition prizewinner. He debuted at Carnegie Hall at 16 and received first prizes at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Bronislaw Kaper Awards, Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, and Southern California High School Chess Championship. A local newspaper named him a “Renaissance Man for the 21st Century” when he was 11.

In 2011 Martin Leung returned to the internet and took 6th place in the 1st India Global Internet Speed Chess Tournament. In 2013 he won shared first place in the American Open Under 1600 section. In 2016 Martin defeated an International Master and became the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club Champion. In 2017 he won shared first place in the Lina Grumette Memorial Day Chess Classic.

He has played in masterclasses with Emanuel Ax, Sergei Babayan, Malcolm Bilson, Idil Biret, Alvin Chow, Eduardo Delgado, Monique Duphil, Stephen Hough, Jeffrey Kahane, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Wonmi Kim, Reinbert de Leeuw, Jura Margulis, Lisa Nakamichi, John Perry, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Awadagin Pratt, Ann Schein, Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Russell Sherman, Ory Shihor, Lori Sims, Dennis Thurmond, Arie Vardi, Tamás Vásáry, Dallas Weekley/Nancy Arganbright, and Robert Weirich.

Martin has been featured diversely, to name a few: ABC, CBS, FOX News, MTV Overdrive, MTV Obsessed, “Game Head” on Spike TV, Steinway & Sons, Cleveland Plain Dealer, East Bay Express, San Diego Union-Tribune, Austin Chronicle, The Observer, CIM Notes, La Pensa, The Megalith, Nintendo Power, Cube (England), PS Extreme (Poland), Just-Cubed (Germany), Gameworld (Brazil), Night Life Montreal (Canada), Excite (Japan), Advanced Media Network, Coverville, Game Music Radio, All Games Radio, MMORadio, WNYC 93.9 FM Soundcheck, Z103 FM Idaho, HOT104.7 FM California, MSN video, and myriad websites.

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– Playing piano, age 3 –

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– Performing at a school party in 1996 –

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– Carnegie Hall debut at age 16! –

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– Martin visits his friend Luigi at Luigi’s apartment in summer 2004! –

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– Performing at Tampa Bay Comic Con, 2014 –