Video Game Pianist

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Video Game Pianist
Martin (15).jpg
Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist, in San Diego, CA, 2009
Background information
Genres Video game music, classical music
Occupation(s) Pianist
Instruments Piano
Years active 2004-present

Martin Leung (IPA: [/ˈmɑɹ.tn̩ lúːŋ/]; born 1986), is a Hong Kong-born American pianist, music transcriber, and chess player. He is known as the Video Game Pianist and is the first pianist to gain worldwide recognition for playing video game music on the piano, both in concert venues and in online videos.

Unlike many recognized musicians, Leung's breakthrough occurred almost entirely online when, on 2 July 2004,[1] a video of him playing the Super Mario Bros. theme blindfolded debuted on eBaum's World and later appeared on numerous viral video websites. Leung makes YouTube videos, and as of 14 December 2015, has over 66,000 subscribers and 13.4 million total views.[2] Leung has been featured in The Plain Dealer, National Public Radio, Steinway & Sons – Owners' Magazine, Nintendo Power, Slashdot, GAME Magazine, CUBE Magazine, Night Life Montreal, MTV,, GameSpot, and Advanced Media Network.

Early life[edit]

Born in Hong Kong to Chinese and Japanese parents, Leung moved to California when he was three years old and began taking interest in the piano at the age of 4 when, after hearing his sister play, he began imitating songs. His parents noticed his potential and enrolled him in piano lessons.

By the late 1990s, Leung had developed into a talented musician, placing first two times at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, once in 1998 and once in 2000, and placing third at the Eighth Annual Oberlin International Piano Competition in 2002.[3] Leung made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2003 at the age of 16 in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, performing Mendelssohn's Concerto No. 1 - Presto.

In 2004, as a high school senior at University High School, Leung put two of his passions — piano and video games — together. On 2 July 2004,[1] the video he and a friend had created of him performing songs from the Super Mario Bros. series blindfolded debuted on eBaum's World and later appeared on other websites.

In December 2015, Leung graduated from the University of Southern California with a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance.[4] He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2008 and Yale School of Music in 2010 with a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in piano performance, respectively.[5][6] Leung has several goals he wishes to accomplish: promote and elevate the image of video game music, enhance the piano’s image so that it will become a more mainstream instrument, and to help increase awareness of classical music.[7]


Video Game Music[edit]

Leung performing at Newman Recital Hall, Los Angeles.

After Leung’s Super Mario Medley internet video was viewed by an estimated 40 million people,[8] he began performing video game music from other popular gaming series including Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Halo, Earthworm Jim, and Final Fantasy. As Leung released more videos of himself performing a broader collection of video game music, his work began to show up on iFilm, MSN Video, eBaum's World, Gprime, and Albino Blacksheep.

Leung's Super Mario Medley video was one of the first Internet videos showcasing a solo performance of video game music. As a result of many people seeing the video, Leung performed at the Indiana Comic Con in March 2015, Tampa Bay Comic Con in August 2014, Brasil Game Show in October 2011, Leipzig Games Convention at the booth in August 2007 and August 2008, SITACon in October 2006, Gallery 1988 in May 2006, Harucon II in April 2006, Game Developers Conference Game Audio Network Guild Awards in March 2006 and March 2007, Penny Arcade Expo in August 2005 and August 2006, in 18 countries with Video Games Live from July 2005 through December 2012, the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the BradyGames Booth in May 2005 and May 2006, and the Walk of Game in March 2005.[9]

Leung gave his first live all-video-game-music piano recital at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, TX in 2005. Leung gave 21 encores.[10]

In March 2007, at the Game Audio Network Guild Awards, Leung performed Super Mario music with Koji Kondo and Shigeru Miyamoto in attendance.

Classical Music[edit]


Leung has given over a hundred solo classical music public performances. Some notable performances the grand opening of Cammilleri Hall at the University of Southern California in 2012, Steinway Hall as part of the Yale Pianists at Steinway Hall series in 2009, Sprague Hall as part of the Messiaen Centenary Celebration at Yale in 2008, at the grand opening of Mixon Hall in 2007, at the Avram Theater at Stony Brook as part of Pianofest in 2007, at the American Liszt Society Festival at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2005, the Orange County Performing Arts Center for the Pacific Symphony Stravinsky Youth Concerts, where Leung performed for 30,000 school children in 2003, at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts for the International Young Artists Peninsula Music Festival in 1999.

Soloist with Orchestra[edit]

Leung made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2003 at the age of 16 in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, performing Mendelssohn's Concerto No. 1 – Presto with the University High School Symphony/Peter Fournier. Leung has also performed with the USC Symphony/Carl St. Clair, Sudbury Symphony Orchestra/Victor Sawa, Regina Symphony Orchestra/Victor Sawa, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra/Victor Sawa, Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra/Tito Munoz, Pittsburgh Symphony/Lucas Richman, YMF Debut Orchestra/Frank Fetta, Brentwood-Westwood Symphony/Alvin Mills, Symphony in the Glen/Arthur B. Rubinstein and Delores Stevens, and the Southwestern Youth Music Festival Orchestra/Frances Steiner.

Chamber Music[edit]

Leung has performed chamber music at Schoenfeld Symphonic Hall in 2013, at Sprague Hall for the New Music New Haven series in 2010, at Smith Hall as part of the Junior Chamber Music Series in 2004, and at the Chamber Music Showcase, organized by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts at the University of Miami in 2004. While at Yale, Leung performed in clarinet, violin, horn, and oboe recitals in 2009-2010.


In 2010, as part of the Yale Philharmonia, Leung played the keyboard glockenspiel in Mozart's “The Magic Flute.” In 2009, Leung played the harpsichord at the Whitney Humanities Center.


External links[edit]