Wellesley POPS Senior Profile: Violinist Liam Prentice orchestrates excellence

Special to The Swellesley Report courtesy of the Wellesley High School Bradford and Parents of Performing Students (POPS). This is one in a series of POPS Senior Profiles we’ll be publishing.

Every December, Wellesley High School’s auditorium reverberates with resounding strings and blaring horns during the annual winter concert, heralding the start of winter break and culminating a week of festive anticipation. For Liam Prentice, a member of Wellesley High’s class of 2024, last year’s winter concert proved especially memorable. 

“Our concertmaster, Jeremy Kim, was out for the day at a dentist appointment, so I had to step in. We played a really good concert, and it forced me to step up and be a leader. It’s always a festive event, with the music of orchestra, band, and chorus intertwining. It was incredible to be part of something so much bigger than myself,” said Prentice.

Liam Prentice
Liam Prentice (Photo credit: Matt Kelley)

Prentice, a violinist for thirteen years, is an integral member of the high school’s Honors Chamber Orchestra, leading in his role of first chair violinist.

Because he grew up in a musical household, Prentice’s musical career began at a young age; he started to play both the violin and piano at the age of five. His mother is a piano teacher, and his grandmother teaches piano in Hong Kong. 

“My mom is the one who first introduced me to the instrument. She’s the one who always set up the teachers and the lessons and everything for a long time. And, even now, when I’m more independent, doing things on my own, she still suggests all these opportunities that she hears about,” he said. 

Outside of the high school, Prentice plays in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO), one of the premier youth orchestras in the greater Boston area, practicing there for four hours every Saturday. He plans to tour internationally with the BPYO in Germany and Austria this June. 

In addition to his orchestral work, he also plays chamber music—music composed for small groups or individuals rather than entire orchestras—at the New England Conservatory of Music. Prentice has accumulated his fair share of musical accolades, including second prize in the Charleston International 19th Century Music Competition and first place in the regional Sempre Musick Concerto Competition.

Prentice credits Klaudia Szlachta, his violin instructor, with guiding his growth as a musician.

“She has a lot of knowledge of what pieces would be good for me, and she always seems to just be perfect on every piece when she’s demonstrating for me. I really respect the commitment she puts in every student because I know other students having the same experience,” said Prentice. 

As first chair violinist at the high school’s Honors Chamber Orchestra (HCO), he serves as concertmaster for the orchestra, leading and coordinating the musical process. At the high school, there are two string orchestra classes for students to perform in: Sinfonia and the HCO. While both practice and perform classical orchestral music, Sinfonia is available to all interested students while the HCO requires an audition, essay, and interview.

Prentice’s teachers have lauded his work ethic and leadership. 

“First, [the concertmaster] should be the best performer in the orchestra. Second, he should be a real leader. And that’s what I see [from Liam]. When I say something, he immediately makes a note, explaining and transferring what I said to the members of the group. So he helps me to work. That’s who a concertmaster is. Regardless of if he’s sitting on my left, he’s my right hand,” said Dr. Sergey Khanukaev, conductor and orchestra teacher at the high school. 

Khanukaev also recalled his noteworthy first impression of Prentice. 

“He drew my attention the first time he came to the class. I noticed him immediately. He asked me, ‘What class is this?’ He didn’t know he could be in the higher-level orchestra. Therefore, he was in Sinfonia. He brought a lot of good things to Sinfonia because he is a high-level violinist, and everyone was trying to fit themselves to feed their level, bringing the level of Sinfonia up.”

Beyond the concert hall, Prentice enjoys running and biking in nature. This past summer, he embarked on a 400-mile bike trip in Nova Scotia with two friends. 

“More than just a dependable friend, Liam is a leader and a role model for fellow violins,” said Ben Zhao, a fellow senior at the high school who accompanied Prentice on his bike trip. “He is very affable, and on the trip, we were able to make friends with a couple of bikers from Wyoming because of him.”

Looking towards the future, Prentice hopes to continue playing the violin past high school. 

“Music will continue to play a major role in my college and adult life, as it has for the last 13 years. I probably won’t take it to the next level with a music degree, but I’ll definitely try to join another orchestra and probably play some solo pieces I enjoy or find on the radio,” said Prentice. 

“He is humble and is very dedicated, but he also knows how to smile. He has feelings, which is most important. People who play music should have feelings. Music is about feelings,” said Khanukaev.

Article written by WHS Bradford ‘s William Liu ’24 and Jason Stephens ’25.