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In Performance

The 

Lives

of

June

Wu

Concert pianist. Journalist. Management Consultant.

If consulting is ultimately about decisions, June Wu had plenty of practice before joining Oliver Wyman.

junewu

She grew up in Troy, Michigan, with intellectual and musical gifts rich enough to gain admission to Harvard and the Juilliard School. Decision number one was choosing Harvard, where she studied economics and computer science, and discovered another passion: journalism. June edited the Harvard Crimson and published 115 stories in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe as an intern on their Metro desks. By the time she joined Oliver Wyman, she had left promising careers in music and journalism behind. Then, while she was consulting in Paris, a concert pianist friend needed a substitute. June knew the repertoire and returned to the stage. This time, we hope, to stay.

Piano Keys

How did you start in music?

My mom took piano lessons when I was growing up, and she said I annoyed her too much by plunking random notes when she was trying to practice, so she decided to sign me up for lessons. I became more serious about piano when I was nine and had the wonderful opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Warren Symphony Orchestra in Michigan. It was such an inspiring experience.

Watch June Wu Perform

How old were you when you started playing the piano?

Five years old. I also played violin through high school, but I squeaked a lot and hated it.

Tell us about your musical career.

“Career” might be a stretch — I was accepted to The Juilliard School for my undergrad but ultimately chose not to go and even stopped playing piano completely for about 6 years. When I was staffed in Paris for a long-haul project, I subbed in for a friend who is a concert pianist since I had worked on the repertoire in the past. I then realized how much I missed having piano in my life and decided to start playing regularly again.

Last March, I competed in an international competition for amateurs and placed third, and that award led to subsequent performances both in Europe and the US. Last October, I performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine in Paris at the Sorbonne.

Do you have a favorite place to play?

I performed in Carnegie Hall for the first time in March, 2015 — a childhood dream of mine.

What was it like playing there?

Incredibly daunting, yet inspiring. Surprisingly intimate.

How do audiences differ in the countries you’ve performed in?

I’ve performed in the US, Paris, and Moscow. Fortunately, music speaks across cultures, but greeting audiences post-concert is far more challenging when you don’t speak the language! In Moscow, I could only say “Thank you for coming. I’m so happy to be here” in Russian.

What is your favorite piece of music to play?

I wouldn’t know where to begin!

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

To maintain a healthy work/life balance. As Type A, workaholic consultants, we can easily get wrapped up in our work, and I realized after a particulary tough project that it’s my responsibility to manage my work/life balance in a way that keeps me and the people in my life sane and happy.

How does being a musician affect your work life?

I set my network password to whatever piece I’m obsessed with at the moment. And I try to book hotels with pianos so I can practice during the evenings when I’m on the road. I wouldn’t say it has a direct impact on my work at Oliver Wyman, although my two worlds have collided on occasion. When a client found out about my upcoming Paris performances, for example, he asked me to perform at his company’s board dinner in Vancouver.

What are you working on at Oliver Wyman?

I’m currently working on a project to build innovation capabilities — from the ground up — at a global services provider based in Paris. It’s pretty exciting to see the level of engagement from the clients, including the future chairperson of the board and the group CEO.

What kinds of problems do colleagues and clients seek you out to solve?

I used to work as a journalist, so I’m often asked to contribute to Points of View. Like most of us here, I aspire to be a flexible thinker and help out wherever I can.

What kinds of challenges do you seek out on your own?

Intellectual challenges. I avoid physical challenges, although my adviser once roped me into doing a 200-mile Ragnar relay along Cape Cod. I’m a very slow and angry runner.

What are your ambitions?

To make a difference to the people I care about.

Quick Takes

  • Secret obsession:
    Salsa dancing
  • Good read:
    The Goldfinch, a beautiful coming of age novel
  • Dream job:
    C.J. Cregg from The West Wing
  • Dining tip:
    Num Pang is a Cambodian sandwich/noodle shop near the New York office. I’ve been trying to make my friends go with me every day.
  • Languages:
    English, French, (terrible) Mandarin

A Year in the

Performing Career

Of June Wu

  • April 5:
    Debut performance with the New York Piano Society at the Baruch Performing Arts Center
  • April 13:
    Waldorf Astoria awards gala for the Asian Real Estate Association of America
  • May 24:
    Debut performance in Moscow, Russia, at the Tsaritsyno Museum
  • June 7:
    New York Piano Society season finale concert at the Baruch Performing Arts Center
  • October 7:
    Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1 with l’Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine in the Grand Amphitheatre at the Sorbonne in Paris
  • December 13:
    New York Piano Society holiday concert with violinist Benjamin Beilman at the Baruch Performing Arts Center
  • March 7:
    Debut performance in Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, for the New York Piano Society annual gala
  • April 27:
    Chairmen’s Circle Concert with violinist Benjamin Beilman at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall
  • May 31 - June 4:
    Les Amateurs! Festival de Piano 2015 at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris
  • May 31:
    Grand concert d’ouverture à deux pianos, with pianist Christine Wu,* at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

    * Christine Wu, June’s sister, is a concert pianist and first-year master’s student at The Juilliard School.

Listen to June Wu Play

People Photos Courtesy of June Wu