Thursday, October 13, 2011

PIANO TRIO with Troy & Juzza

This year has been the absolute bestest year ever. Words can't describe how glad and thankful and joyful and relieved I feel to be in such a fun and amazing Piano Trio at VCASS.

We laugh so much in rehearsals and we communicate really well. The highlight this year was working on the 15 minute Rachmaninov Piano Trio in G minor No. 1.

The amazing thing is we all have such a similar idea about the music we're playing and we click really well. It's so much fun and so rewarding to make music with people who are just as passionate about making the music. I thank God so much I was placed in such a good ensemble! I love playing in the piano trio setting and I love the interaction with the strings.

We just completed our Mozart and Bloch Nocturne III in assessment today. Surprisingly, despite the lack of rehearsals, we were really 'together' and it went really well! I think it helps we have so much fun and laughter and wackiness in the rehearsals. Even though we make mistakes, we're all able to laugh it off and laugh at each others. We just laugh it off and fix the problem. I think that should be the way! It releases all the unnecessary tension and makes making music so enjoyable and memorable.

I'm pretty sure being in an ensemble is all to do with the people you're with. If you're with the wrong people, the music won't shine through and the passion won't emanate from your playing. It's an amazing feeling to be playing with people who are just as excited to get the music going as it should sound! I think I prefer playing in an ensemble than doing solo performance. It's in some ways much more challenging and also much more fun. Well, if you're with the right sort of people.

I guess you have to be able to adapt and accept other people's opinions as well as be comfortable asserting your own. You have to love the music, and you all have to love the music together! It won't work if one of your members isn't passionate about it as much as you are.

Sigh, this year has simply been the best year ever for me doing solo performance and ensemble performance. It's been so memorable and fun and rewarding. I've learned so much and experienced much more the last year in VCASS than all my years combined before! =)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Music: The Voice of Heaven

Music isn't simply about me
It surpasses who I am!
Music expresses who we are
Often shaking us to the core

The peaceful tunes bring solace
Transforming me inside
An art forever embraced
In my heart and soul it stays

O what would I do
Without the gift of music?
O where will I hide
Without its wondrous magic?

Some will distort its purity
Pulling apart its seamless gown
What happened to the pure sound
The power inside that pounds?

As I sit at the piano
My fingers touch the keys
The silence lingers on
Till I hear a heavenly sound

Rumblings deep within
A simple rhythm underlying
Just listen more intently
And the song will surely come

Then I play
And then I sing
My voice floats up high
The golden bells ring

I pluck the instrument
A string with mighty resonance
Unleash the music in me
Inspire a long-lost creativity

Let my soul be still
And the noises fade
When my heart finally stops
I'll hear the voice of Heaven instead.

By Janielle :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year of Musical Endeavors

Wow oh wow, how did I make it THIS FAR???

Now I've crossed over into year 2011. But 2010 is still very much part of me and all the memories of my musical escapades throughout the year are still floating in my mind. =)

From the beginning, I had my first embarrasing big-time-epic-fail performance at VCASS, when I could barely go through one minute of Chopin's Impromptu in Ab major without a memory lapse!

Then it was uphill all the way. Sometimes I got so stressed out, my mum asked me if it was a mistake that I got into an arts school! But I am grateful to God for helping me through such a challenging year. At the same time, it has been immensely rewarding and fun. For the first time, I truly enjoyed school. And even when the holidays came around, I wished I could go back to school to practice on the beautiful grand pianos!

Now its time to set my sights on new repertoire in preparation for the 2011 year-end Music Solo Performance. I'm so pumped and thrilled to work on the new pieces! Finally, after successfully completing my AmusA, the Australian Examinations Music Board diploma certificate in piano, I am ever more ready to take on new challenges for 2011. :D 

I pray and hope that this year I would be more prepared since I have a better understanding of how VCASS works and how I should practice & manage time in a music school. It's also my final year of highschool! How I wish I could've spent more than just 2 short years at such an incredible place. 

Anyhow, I'm trusting God as I continue to aim high in my music endeavours. Let this not just be about performing for people and living my dreams. Its more than that. I have to choose very soon. What will I pursue after highschool? I'll have to check out different universities and submit audition applications. Honestly, I'm quite worried at the looming future ahead. What if things don't work out the way I want it to? 

Nevertheless, I realize that its not so much about me as it is about doing God's will for my life in this time and season. I believe time is short. We all have to do what we're called to do and be certain about it so no time and talent is wasted!

Every good gift comes from God, and without God's help, I wouldn't have gotten through 2010 doing as well as I did and accomplishing that much! All glory to God. Let me not forget that, "A man can receive nothing unless it is given to him from Heaven."

Carpe diem,
Janielle =)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Let the Music Flow

It’s a pity that my music blog has been rather inactive these months. I just never found the time! But of course, my home blog is still quite alive.

Anyway, I must not waste time, I just needed to write something important that I learned today about composing music.

After a quiet walk to the park, while listening to my iPod, I came home humming a tune. I thought it sounded quite nice. I couldn’t resist not giving it a go on the piano. (Sometimes, I’m too lazy to work on a new composition, so I just ignore it.) And boy, once I started, I didn’t stop. For the first time, I composed without looking back, without retracing my steps and replaying previous notes to check if they sounded right or wrong.

No, I kept the flow. I followed the pace of the music inside. This time, it worked. I got to the end.

I learned today that whenever I am struck by inspiration, by a melody from within, I mustn’t take it for granted. I mustn’t push it away. Most importantly, once I start to play it out and write the notes on the empty score sheet, I mustn’t be tempted to stop and look back. For once, don’t try to be a perfectionist and attempt to make the first time perfect! I realize that all the times when I stopped composing, when I stopped the music, in order to replay previous notes, I fail to continue composing afterwards.

The music that was flowing so freely and genuinely is abruptly halted and lost forever just because I looked back and tried to make sense out of it before even allowing the music to complete itself.

But even so, I must take note that sometimes the music does not complete itself in a short time, or within 2 hours composing. It takes days, months, years… Gosh, I can’t go on anymore because I don’t know what the next step is! How do I continue on a composition that is unfinished after so long? I don’t know. I have many un-ended compositions. I have much to learn.

So I am very much looking forward to VCASS next week, cause’ I’ll be taught to work on a lot of composition projects. Can’t wait. There’s so much to absorb, to discover! In the days to come, there are many more musical treasures to uncover!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oboe: Back On Track!

For a period of time, I kinda’ stopped practicing my oboe. I was unhappy with myself for not practicing. I really wanted to do it, yet I did not have the motivation and discipline. Maybe it was because of the cold winter, or simply because my oboe reed was deteriorating and I didn’t care to buy a new one cause’ it was costly.

So anyway, for nearly 2 months, I had no progress on the oboe. I started to dread the lessons with Mr. Jacobs because I couldn’t keep up. My mouth would tire very easily because I did not practice! So yes, I wasn’t doing well with my third instrument.

I asked God to help me, to give me the discipline to just do it. But in my heart, I did not really want God to help me. I made myself believe that I didn’t have the time for it. On the other hand, I can’t really blame myself about being “lazy”. I had to practice for piano and violin, and that took up at least 5 hours of my average day. By the time I settle for the oboe, I’m too tired and I can’t be bothered to assemble the parts and wet my reed.

However, at last week’s oboe lesson, I finally got fed up with myself and my lack of practice. It was too embarrassing to turn up for lessons unprepared and showing no improvement or commitment to the instrument. My teacher also gave me a very good suggestion concerning my practice schedule – he said I should try practicing oboe FIRST, before playing violin or piano. And just 15 minutes would do me good. Then at least I won’t be playing with my mind, fingers and body already tired from practicing violin and piano. I thought his advice made good sense!

So that’s what I did. I whipped out my oboe nearly everyday after school, and practiced just 15 minutes before starting on my other instruments. And hey, it jolly worked for me! This time, I also genuinely prayed that God would help me to get back on track with my oboe. Although I’ve been practicing only 15-30 mins each day, it has been good enough to help me remember the fingerings and develop the face muscles around my mouth bit by bit.

I’ve learned that even 15 minutes of practice a day makes an enormous difference. The key is to have constant and regular practices. Gah, as if we all don’t know that! But the truth is, we all try to ignore that fact. Sigh, there’s just no other way to it!

Anyway, here’s the happy ending: I had my oboe lesson this week, and for the first time since 2 months, I finally had such a productive and fun lesson!!! I learned much more and it was all because I could PLAY. Hahaha. All of a sudden, I feel extremely motivated. =)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Slow Down & Speed Up

I discovered that in order to determine whether or not I have fully (to my best extent at that point) memorized and understood [the key parts of] a piece, I must be able to play it at varying tempos. I must be able to play slowly and also quickly at random parts throughout the song. It’s like changing the metronome time from fast to slow, without affecting the quality of the notes being played. For once, it is not about playing musically or with rubato or not, it is simply about being able to confidently play what I have committed to memory, at the threat of having to slow down and speed up.

When slowing down, I must still be able to produce the notes accurately. Ironically, it can sometimes be much easier to play fast because then it becomes almost automatic; whereas playing slow will force the mind to think about the notes coming next. Therefore if I do not know my piece well enough, playing slow might stop the “memory flow” – meaning, my mind has a tendency to go “blank” when anticipating the next note.

By speeding up, I must also be able to produce the notes quickly and accurately (in my mind – whether by automated memory or photographic memory of the page or bar of notes). By doing this, I’m forcing my mind and memory to produce the notes faster than normal and therefore my familiarity with the piece is also tested.

It actually works both ways. I must both learn to slow down and speed up to keep my mind and memory on alert. If I can’t play slow without stopping halfway, because my mind goes blank at some point (this always happens to me that’s why I prefer fast songs), that means I haven’t practiced enough and I don’t know the piece as thoroughly as I should.

If I truly know a fast piece, I would be able to play it slowly because then it is no longer about the hands playing automatically and “without thinking”, but it is about my ability to savour every note. So even when I’m playing it fast, I am actually conscious of every note, and not only playing automatically. That’s why I need to force myself to play slow for fast pieces. I will then have the chance to slowly reflect on each note, although it is to be played fast.

I discover that once I am able to play a fast piece slowly, it means that I’ll be ten times better when I play it fast. Because then I’ll be playing it with the awareness of the beauty and significance of every individual note.

On the other hand, speeding up a piece with moderate or andante tempo forces the mind to produce the memory of the notes more quickly. Thus this enhances the playing of the piece because then when it is played at the correct tempo, the mind is always on the alert, already thinking of and knowing what is coming next (because it has already done so when you played faster than normal).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Ideal Student

Recently, I started teaching another new student! This was another pleasant surprise, as with my other students. My new student’s name is Ethan. He’s a beginner. It so happened that his mom (somehow) heard that I teach piano, and she actually contacted me through Facebook! Haha, amazing right. :P

So today I taught 7 year-old Ethan for the second time. His mom says that 2 years ago, one teacher said he is not mentally prepared (a very restless boy he was) to learn yet. So now here I am teaching him.

At first I was a bit worried. It’ll be my first time teaching a lil’ boy – and you know, I never had a lil’ bro and I seldom have to look after boys. So I had no idea how it would turn out. What if he can’t sit still? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he doesn’t listen enough to get what I’m saying?

I just committed my worries to God and went ahead with it. To my sheer delight, Ethan was such a wonderful boy to teach! Yes, he’s a tad energetic (what do you expect, he’s a 7 year old!), but he’s also very responsive and a clever boy indeed.

I now realize that the best students are not the ones that sit quietly and listen to & obey everything you say. No, no. My ideal students are those who respond to my teaching by asking me “why do it this way and not that?”, or hard questions that will keep me on my toes. BUT, the great catch is: although they ask questions and may sometimes disagree, they must also be students who know when to ask the right questions and can submit to the teacher’s advice.

To my surprise (and delight), Ethan is one such student. My very first student in Melbourne, Amelie, was also such a student. Unfortunately now she’s gone back to Germany.

I thank God for such a privilege to teach music!