Tell us briefly about your musical experience in the Lowcountry in the past 6 years.
I came to Charleston in 2008 to attend the College of Charleston. Since then I have graduated with a degree in both piano performance and music history, and performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician. I have been fortunate and honored to have shared the stage with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Charleston, CAM faculty & students, and many talented musicians. In addition, my duo (together with my colleague Amy Tan) has enjoyed much success in Charleston as well.
How long have you been working at CAM? Tell us about a memorable time during your years at CAM.
I started teaching at CAM in 2009. I have had many students who have had impressive achievements over the years, including some of my current students who have been studying with me for a couple of years. There are just too many memorable times! I particularly enjoy seeing my students perform at a recital and playing their hearts out! I remember my first student here who started the piano at the age of four. He left Charleston in 2012, but I met him again when his family came back for a visit. It was touching to see that he had kept up with his piano studies and made even more improvements! I also really appreciate the efforts of the CAM Honors Program students and teachers. Accompanying those students over the years and watching them grow into great musicians have been such a rewarding experience.
What inspired you to come up with the Rush Hour Mini Concerts?
I perform a lot around Charleston, however, my students rarely make it to my concerts as they usually go to bed before I even step onto the stage! I know many other students who would love to see their teachers perform, but the students have such busy lives in school these days. Thus the idea of a shorter concert at an earlier time made sense to me. In addition, I wanted to create an avenue for the teachers of CAM to perform. At CAM, we pride ourselves in having the best faculty in Charleston area. I thought to myself ‘what better way to showcase them than having them perform for the community in a regular series?’ The time of the concerts made sure that it was easy to invite members of the community, and not come into conflict with any other concerts in Charleston!
How did you quickly develop such a following for these concerts? Almost every concert seemed full, to the point where some people had to sit outside the recital hall.
Charleston might not have needed another concert series, but people here love the arts. The CAM family has always wanted to see more of the faculty in concert. And the time is so convenient! Part of the reason for its popularity is also taking into consideration the tastes of the audience. The concerts are varied and interesting, covering a wide range of instruments, such as the winds, strings, piano, jazz guitar, voice, and so on. This attracts a wide variety of audience too!
As a teacher, recitalist, accompanist, and student, you have many roles to fulfill. What makes you so adaptable and flexible?
I attribute this to my experiences growing up. At home, in school, and while serving in the military in Singapore, I’ve always been pushed to do my best in more than just one role. It is a matter of practice! After that, it just seems natural to do all that I do, especially since I enjoy these “jobs” tremendously.
What do you think the younger students can gain from being exposed to music early on in their lives?
Listening to music breeds cultivation, and the earlier the better. Art music of the past few centuries is always organized, complex, intriguing and educational – something that all students can take from. I could quote numerous studies that state how beneficial music education is (you can even read some of them in the CAM elevator)!
How do you think students can benefit from attending concerts rather than just practicing their instruments?
Students often get caught up in practicing. Teachers and parents push them to practice, practice, practice, fixing this mistake, repeat that section, and so on. This can get mundane really quickly, and it is usually the reason why students quit early in their music education! Going to a concert gives the students something tangible to grasp – this is the goal! To students, attending concerts is beyond just an inspiration. Students can really feel what it is like to create beautiful music for an audience, even more so when their teachers are the ones performing!