Category: Music Appreciation

Classical music: sacred or scary?

People have a general misconception about classical music. 

“It’s boring.”

“It’s for the elite.” (“high-class”).

“It’s old. Who wants to listen to that?”

“I don’t understand it.”

“I don’t play an instrument, so I don’t get it.”

Classical music is just another music genre, like jazz, hip hop, rock, pop, world. 

Of course, in the hearts of “classical people” – meaning the classical musicians and connoisseurs, classical music is “unique”, “pristine”, even “sacred”, like the untouchable.

I like to think there is something special with classical music of course, with my own background of years of classical music training and study. Even I like many kinds of music, classical music does have a special place in my heart, there’s no doubt about it. But I also like to share with people who are interested in learning and listening to it more, because there’s nothing “scary” or “boring” about classical music at all. In fact, once you get a hang of it, you would start to be able to appreciate it more and bathe and rejoice in the beauty of it, that I can assure you of.

Now, where do we start?

Let’s start from singing.

Who doesn’t like to sing? Who can’t appreciate a good singing voice, even one thinks they cannot sing?

I enjoy listening to vocal music, be it solo or choral. I am quite inclined to listening to choral music though -perhaps due to my training as a choral conductor – from a cappella to chorus with a full on orchestra. My favorite choral music would be gregorian chant and mass, then followed by some beautifully harmonised “modern”choral songs.

Now how do you listen to the music here?

  1. listen with your mind open – forget about what kind of music it is. Just listen and feel. And ask yourself, “do we like it? why?”
  2. find out more about the music – google it, who wrote it? who sang it? is there any story to the music/about the composer – there’s always some story, at least if there’s lyrics, you can appreciate the words.
  3. if you know how to play an instrument and understand some music theory, then you can find out some basic structural information about the piece. Or simply, listen to the ebbs and flows of the music. Or, if there’s more than one instrument, can you hear what’s there? How do the different instrumentation come together, and how do they interact with each other?

So here are some of my favorite, please enjoy:

First, some good old fashioned piano solo music, everyone’s favorite! : s famous nocturnes by Chopin:

Now, some choral music with piano accompaniment, some more harmonized, easy listening and “modern”:

And here is some unaccompanied (“a cappella”) mass, it’s for me very healing and almost spiritual experience listening to this kind of music:

If anyone wants me to talk about these genres, like the background and things like that, I am happy to write about them in the future. Just send me a message and let me know!

Much blessings in music,

Teresa x

Please don’t “teach” piano

I can’t start writing this post without talking about my own learning experience.

I wish I had better teachers right from the start. I do. But I didn’t – that’s why I always wanted to be the best teacher for my students, but that’s another story.

Now, being a “teacher” is different from an “instructor” – those who “instruct” give you “instructions” to follow. It implies that you as a student do not have to think about what to do but just to do it regardless. It’s the rule: how can you not do it when your “teacher” tells you to? (I really mean “instructor”)

To teach means something rather different. The word “teach” means the following:

To impart knowledge to someone
To cause (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience.

Although the word “teach” also means to instruct, it means so much more than giving directions just to be followed strictly. I would focus more on the “knowledge” part.

To have a knowledge in a topic is very meaningful and powerful. I don’t know if you know anyone whom you would refer to as someone very “knowledgeable” in a field/topic (think about it now), how would you describe that person when s/he talks about that field/topic? Isn’t it like s/he knows every single thing in that topic, the details, the questions, the answers, the problems, the solutions, and s/he is genuinely interested in conversing with you about it, and is eager to show you what’s there?

That’s the power of knowledge. And you can find it in any topics, any skills, and any fields. In case of this piano thing, a teacher is there to “impart knowledge” in a student, and that would require first of all that teacher knows that knowledge (at least a lot of it) before s/he can deliver that knowledge to the student.

Knowledge is not fixed however. And it should always be growing. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. That’s knowledge. And for me, that’s exciting news, because it’s always interesting to be more knowledgeable in a topic I enjoy learning about.

People think that it’s easy to be those who are talented and famous, because they are talented and famous. But do you know how much time and effort they put into honing their skills in whatever fields they are in? I am not saying everyone wants and needs to be that in one field in particular, certainly not in piano playing or teaching! What I mean is, it requires effort and skills. And if you learn smart and efficient, you will have better skills in shorter time.

I always tell my students, “start thinking!”, “start reading!”, “start creating!”, and “start training!”. You can waste one more day to not hone that skill that belongs to you, but why?

Teresa Wong

P.S. Oh, I seemed to have derailed from my topic. Well, people, don’t teach if you don’t want to teach. Don’t teach if you don’t know how to teach. If you dont’ know how to teach well, please learn more to improve your teaching skills and have more knowledge in music and piano and playing, you owe this to your students, you really do. The last thing I hate is to see another student ruined by a so-called “teacher”.

P.P.S. Hey “students”, you are there to learn from your teachers.If you have a found a great teacher, please do not waste his/her time. Tell her/him you can’t have lessons anymore because you are “lazy, “don’t have time for lessons and/ practice, “don’t have money for lessons/a decent piano”, “too busy at school/work/sleepover/parties/travel/celebration/family gatherings/holidays/valentine’s day/dragon boat festival” etc etc. Just make up an excuse to leave. Thank you very much.

New Short Courses 2017

We are introducing new short intensive courses this year:

Sight reading
Ear training
Song writing
*Piano teacher training

Whole course duration: 10 classes
Format: group courses, 3-6 people
Original Fee: $3600.
New student special price: $3400.
*Piano teacher training ($6000 whole course 10 weeks)
**sight reading + ear training ($4600 whole course, special: $4400)

Schedule

*1030-1145am piano teacher training level I (Teresa Wong)
*12-1245pm fundamental sight reading training (Teresa Wong)
*1-145pm fundamental ear training (Teresa Wong)
*715-830pm sight reading + ear training (Teresa Wong)

Saturday
4-445pm fundamental sight reading training (Teresa Wong)
445-530pm fundamental ear training (Teresa Wong)

Wednesday:
4-450pm sight reading for kids (Carol Yip)
5-550pm ear training for kids (Carol Yip)
6-650pm church pianist training (Carol Yip)

Contact us today at twsomusic@gmail.com for registration and questions!

The Desire to Succeed 

I hope you all had a good holiday. 

During my holiday, I did a lot of reading and thinking (besides resting and exercising!). I found a lot of focus and clarity when I could do these two things with clear head (thanks to my regular meditation practice). 

One thing I want to talk about today is the desire to excel, and of course here I would apply that to piano playing and teaching.

Many say that passion is the key to success. I agree with passion – love for the thing we do – certainly helps a lot in motivating us to keep doing what we are doing. But only passion is not enough, as I will explain below. 

During my many years as a pianist and teacher and mentor, I have met and taught students from all walks of life, whether they be amateur or professional musicians. When I first heard someone telling me that they want to “study abroad”, “go to Germany/Vienna/France”, “take a diploma exam”, “become a great piano teacher”, I warm heartedly encouraged them and gave them a lot of advice on how to proceed with that goal. They all looked very enthusiastic and genuinely interested in pursuing that goal they held dearly on to. However, after a few months/a year, there were no signs of no follow-up actions and the enthusiasm seemed to gradually fade away. 

I thought about how I made things happen for myself in terms of piano performance or teaching career or building a business. Certainly there was a lot of passion involved. It’s the passion that prompted me to start with everything I did. I did more than having a passion. There was also the desire to succeed. And then I looked at how others succeeded in what they pursued, it’s the exact same way as I did only in different arenas. 

So what is the desire to succeed? 

There are two keywords in this question: “desire” and “succeed”. 

Let’s start with the word “desire”. Desire is a very strong sentiment and commitment to the passion one has, whether it be playing the piano well, maintaining a harmonious relationship, making a decent living, or simply, having a nice meal at a fine restaurant. 

When you have a very strong desire in anything you have in mind, you will figure out a way to achieve it, no matter how hard it is. 

Now what would you do to fulfill that desire? There are steps you would make to “succeed”, which is the second keyword of our question. 

Let’s say you want to have a nice meal at a fine restaurant, the procedure would be firstly you research about which restaurant you want to go. Then you have to make a reservation. You might even have to book very early in advance if the restaurant is very popular. You would do all that to have the nice meal you so strongly desire to have, right? And you also make sure you have enough money to pay for that meal, to make that goal complete smoothly. You might even buy a new dress/suit and bring someone you really fancy to make this fine dining experience more wonderful. Then you would feel you have “succeeded”. 

It’s the same for piano playing. In order to have some pleasant outcome out of the time and effort we are going to spend in our lessons and our practice, we must have the desire to succeed before we decide we want to pick up our playing/practice/teaching again. You must have a very strong desire to make that happen for yourself but it for anyone else. You must feel very strongly that is absolutely something you are willing to spend time/effort/money/training in for a considerably sustained period of time. Otherwise all your time/effort/money/training are wasted for nothing. 

So what exactly is the definition of having succeeded in fulfilling that desire and passion? That’s up to you. It might be learning to play one of your favorite pieces really well in three months, or attaining a piano diploma in a year, or becoming a great piano teacher in two years. The point is to make your goal as specific as possible. The time frame is for reference only. Of course it’s important to meet that as much as possible and do not create an impossible goal for yourself in a short time, that only adds to your detriment of being actually able to achieving it. And even more important is that you stick to that goal no matter how hard and challenging you find it is. If you truly have the desire to succeed, you will find help and adjust how you do it along the way. 

You must commit to what you have started. That differentiates those who can achieve what they are passionate about and those who cannot and blame others for their failure. 

People think talent/innate ability is the key. That’s only part of the picture. Most often than not those who succeed in what they do have put tremendous hard work with absolute perseverance constantly. It’s not that they don’t struggle or even at times fail, but they just bite their tongues and keep on moving forward. 

I hope you all have a great start to the new year and find what you desire to succeed in in your brand new journey ahead. 

Teresa Wong

The First Time, The Last Time And The Precious Moment.

The First Time, The Last Time And The Precious Moment.
 
Tonight I had this wonderful chance to share music with my wonderful student in this wonderful piano lesson. I told her that in order to be fully engaged in the music she is playing, she must think about one of these moments/situations:
 
Think about this moment you play as if it’s the FIRST TIME. It’s like the first time you see this person you really like, this pair of shoes you really want, this place you really enjoy visiting, this activity you really enjoy doing…
 
Everything is fresh and new.
 
OR
 
Think about this moment you play as if it’s the LAST TIME. It’s like the last chance you would ever have to feel this music, to play the piano, to see this person you love, to do this thing you really like to do, the place you really enjoy going, the food you really like eating…
 
You savor it. Every single note you have. You touch it, you taste it, you feel it, you listen to it, you breathe it.
 
OR
 
Think about this moment you play as if it’s the ONLY TIME, in the HERE and in the NOW, this ONE PRECIOUS MOMENT in the present. You will never have the same moment ever again.
 
BE PRESENT IN THIS MOMENT OF NOW. BE ENGAGED, BE AWARE, BE FOCUSED AND BE MINDFUL.
 
ENJOY YOUR PLAYING AT THE PIANO!
Teresa Wong