First published in the August 5 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
South Pasadena local Lukasz Yoder has been playing piano since he was 2 years old, by his estimate. Being a so-called “FBoy,” however, is a more recent endeavor.
The 21-year-old UCLA classical piano student made his debut on the HBO show “FBoy Island” this summer and walked into the reality television world as a dichotomy.
“Beyond, of course, me thinking it would be fun (being on “FBoy Island”), a big thing is as a classical pianist, I want to get classical music in front of an audience that it’s not usually in front of,” Yoder said.
“FBoy Island” offers a twist on traditional dating shows. Three women are faced with 24 men in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Half of them define themselves as “nice guys,” while the other half hold the title of “FBoy,” slang for a flashy guy whose goals often include getting girls and material possessions.
The women eliminate contestants as the show progresses and if the final man she chooses is a nice guy, the two split $100,000. If the man she chooses is a womanizing FBoy, he can keep the money.
Yoder, who was home-schooled until enrolling at UCLA, played himself off as a nice guy, claiming to be a virgin who recently had his first kiss, but after being eliminated on the show, he revealed himself as an FBoy, earning praise and the nickname “FBoy Jesus” from fellow contestants in honor of his deception.
He was treated to six-course meals and pampering from production crews while on the show, but was unable to showcase his piano skills on camera. He was, however, able to use some of the skills he’s garnered through years of piano performances.
“I think the secret to being good on TV and being memorable is being yourself and fully embracing your personality and not being afraid to express it,” he said. “Which is really very much what music is about. It’s about being fully yourself and not being afraid to express who you are.”
Watching the show, audiences might be persuaded that Yoder has traded Chopin for courtship, but it’s impossible to not associate Yoder with piano. His Instagram profile is flooded with video recordings of him playing a variety of composers.
Yoder says a career goal of his is to be recognized by both People Magazine and Gramophone, a respected music journal. “FBoy Island” could serve a mechanism to enhance his personal brand as well as showcase classical music in a broader sense.
“Gifted, ambitious, smart musicians carve their own path,” Inna Faliks, head of Piano Studies at UCLA, said. “One also has to be very smart and entrepreneurial and in that sense, what he’s done here, people might look in different ways upon his foray into television but in a way, it could be seen as very entrepreneurial and it could lead to things nobody expects.”
Faliks has known and worked with Yoder for about four years and praises his ability to express feelings and moods through the volume and reverberations of piano keys.
“He’s just really able to connect quickly to the emotional world, to the colors and the atmosphere of the music,” she said. “He does it in such a way that’s very much his own.”
Yoder continues to practice piano for hours on end, and occasionally uses it to impress girls while on dates. There is also a chance HBO could bring him back for another season of “FBoy Island” and allow him to further juxtapose the old and new.
“When is the last time there was a classical pianist on a reality show? Especially dating? I’m not sure there ever really has been one,” Yoder said.