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A world-class experience

International pianist thrives at UMKC's Conservatory of Music and Dance

Christopher Janwong McKiggan from Conservatory of Music and Dance on Vimeo.

When Chris McKiggan left Thailand to audition for UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, he was curious but not nervous.

“I am open to whatever happens,” he said of the experience. “For better or for worse, I make a choice and go for it.”

It didn’t take long for the Conservatory faculty to select McKiggan as one of their students.

“We were delighted from his first audition,” said Robert Weirich, Jack Strandberg/Missouri Chair in Piano. “Chris brings a liveliness and animation – and a powerful desire to learn – to everything he does.”

Starting young

After an introduction to the piano at age six by his father, McKiggan quit playing when his family moved from London to Thailand. At age 10, he was inspired to play again.

He showed an interest in all the performing arts, acting and limited modeling as a teenager. Although he liked all genres of music, he preferred to compose and play classical and jazz piano.

McKiggan found himself at the threshold of piano preparation, having absorbed all the education and training available. He knew he needed to move on.

UMKC proved to be the ideal place for McKiggan, where faculty could provide personal attention. He liked the warm, supportive atmosphere at the Conservatory, and described Weirich as a great piano teacher, friend and coach. 

Self- discipline pays off

The biggest change was going from homeschooling to a classroom; but McKiggan viewed homeschooling as an advantage. He was self-disciplined; and his parents’ teaching methods left him wanting more and asking questions – encouraging his natural curiosity.

Weirich admired McKiggan as both a student and a person.

“Chris is ambitious in the best sense of the word, seizing every opportunity to add more difficult pieces to his considerable repertoire. We quickly worked out a mutual understanding, almost a shorthand, and our work progressed smoothly.”

McKiggan captivated Robert Olson, UMKC professor of orchestras, with just one brilliant performance. As soon as they walked off stage, Olson offered him an opportunity with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra.

McKiggan was asked about his legacy at the Conservatory and UMKC.

“I would like to be remembered as an open-minded person, someone who loves performing and loves interacting…and I have 13 credit hours of acting classes to prove it.”

In the fall, McKiggan begins a two-year graduate piano program at Rice University.

Posted: June 8, 2010

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"I really wanted to study with someone of that caliber. He [Robert Weirich] has given me so much musical experience since I've been at UMKC, but he has also helped me gather performance opportunities and master classes with great artists, and I really loved his teaching."

Chris McKiggan
Bachelor of Music, Piano Performance, 2010

Chris McKiggan was introduced to the piano at age six.