CCPA Piano Player Anila Aliu

According to Chicago College of Performing Arts diplomatist Anila Aliu, her journey to the University was “probably the best and weirdest story of my life.” 

Originally from Kosovo, Anila has trained as a professional concert pianist since the age of 10. Her performances have taken her to all corners of the world, and she has won first prize in many competitions. Along the way, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance. In 2022, a renowned conductor Jorge Vazquez invited Anila to play in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa—founded in 1929 and considered to be the oldest symphony orchestra in Mexico.

Following her Mexican tour, Anila intended to return home to Kosovo, but something told her to plan her layover in Chicago. While exploring the city, she found herself in a restaurant near Roosevelt University where she overheard two CCPA students talking about their piano repertoire. She says, “I was interested in attending a concert or finding a practice space. Anywhere I go, I try to connect with music, always.” 

When Anila overheard the two classical piano students discussing the exact pieces she had been playing, she introduced herself. That conversation led to an invitation for her to attend the University’s Piano Festival the following evening. There, Anila would first hear Roosevelt’s chair of the music conservatory and Grammy-nominated professor Adam Neiman perform for the very first time. “I was fascinated and left speechless,” she says. “I knew he could be the teacher to help me take my performing to the next level. His performance was more than wonderful.”

Enraptured, Anila spoke with Professor Neiman and requested a lesson with him. That lesson would take place the very next day. Neiman provided Anila with tips and advice before encouraging her to apply to the diploma program. Studying in the U.S. was never on her radar. “It was never, ever in my plans to come to the U.S., because it's thousands of miles away from Kosovo,” she says. “I had planned to be in Germany or Austria, or elsewhere in Europe, as I had lots of connections there and I speak German. But then: Destiny. I was in search of the right professor. That’s what was most important.”

Anila found her mentor in Adam Neiman. The two students she met, Raphael Chou and Matthew Lorenz, are now her friends and peers in the piano department. According to Anila, a chance meeting changed the course of her life and career. “I simply cannot find the right words to thank Professor Neiman, who was so open to talk to me after the concert, and also offered me a lesson on the next day.” She continues, “The progress we made in just 60 minutes was  remarkable. And after I saw everything: the way he teaches, the way he explains things, the way he plays, I was 100% convinced that he's the right professor.”  Anila also credits her experience at Roosevelt to Dr. Winston Choi, the program director of the piano and harp programs. Both Professor Neiman and Dr. Choi took the time to speak with Anila following Piano Fest and helped her during the application process. Professor Neiman had this to say about Anila’s journey:

“I have the privilege of teaching Anila Aliu, who is quite simply one of the most extraordinary young musicians with whom I have ever worked. Not only does she possess nuanced instincts for musical poetry beyond what can be taught, she also has the drive, work ethic, intelligence and emotional centeredness to take her to the very top of the field. My role is to equip her with the musical and technical mastery she needs to achieve her dream of ascending into the upper echelon of the piano performance world, and I have no doubt that she will get there. It is humbling and inspiring to be but a footnote on her journey upward, and we at CCPA will all be cheering her on throughout her career.”

Anila’s experience with Roosevelt has come full circle. In late 2023, Anila performed in Piano Fest alongside the mentors and friends she watched from the audience just a year prior. She performed on one of Roosevelt’s newest instruments, the Yamaha Disklavier CFX. The top-tier concert instrument features Yamaha’s patented Disklavier, which they describe as, “the world’s most advanced piano.” Yamaha's Disklavier CFX “can faithfully reproduce every nuance of a performance and stream it, wirelessly, anywhere in the world.” Professor Neiman had this to say about the instrument:

“Imagine sitting down in CCPA’s historic Ganz Hall to listen to and watch in real-time a world-renowned artist in Berlin or Tokyo play or teach on a Yamaha while the sound emerges directly from our piano in Chicago. [This allows] the audience to experience the music at the very highest level within the convenience of our own space.”

This state-of-the-art instrument was the first purchase made possible by the University’s new “Piano Improvement Program”. The program plans to invest more than $750,000 in new pianos for the College of Performing Arts, primarily from donors. Students like Anila are already experiencing the benefits of this investment, and Anila describes the experience of playing the Yamaha as such: 

“It's really a magnificent instrument, and it's such a vital addition to our space. This performance at Piano Fest 2023 was broadcast to a global audience. It just highlights the significance of this piano. Playing there made me feel like a world-class artist. It transformed me to the world's most renowned halls and venues. Its sound quality and then the way it responds, the way it resonates, is just simply indescribable.”

Anila Aliu is on the path toward becoming a world-renowned concert pianist. She credits her time at Roosevelt as making her that much better. Of her future, Anila says, “I just want to share my music and what is inside of me and what I've been working on since I was a child everywhere in the world. I also want to represent myself, my mentor and CCPA, who has helped me achieve my last educational goal. I plan to represent Roosevelt University in the best way possible.”

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