Tom Lee Music was delighted to host acclaimed pianist and Steinway Artist Jenny Lin for a recent series of workshops on the theme of Practicing and Performance Preparation. Enthusiastic audiences joined us on Thursday, May 10 at Tom Lee Music Vancouver and on Friday, May 11 at Tom Lee Music Richmond and were blown away by her humble insight and brilliance. Our team had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny Lin after her latest workshop and made some interesting discoveries about her musical experiences and core values as a performer and educator.

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Interview by CJ McGillivray in conversation with Steinway Artist Jenny Lin:

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Were there any questions from the workshops which intrigued you?

All of the teachers share very similar concerns when it comes to their students. It was a really good opportunity to have everyone discussing together. It wasn’t so much me telling them but it was everyone sharing their experiences and raising questions since music is such an individualistic thing. Every student is different, every piano lesson is different.

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Is it more about community building?

Absolutely. Yes. I encourage everyone to ask questions or share a comment and really bounce off each other. If I can contribute somehow and share some of my experiences, that was really the purpose. I’m not a lecturer, I’m a pianist who tours and teaches a little bit. But I was just sharing with them my practicing experience and concert preparation experience. We’re all colleagues and we’re discussing possible solutions to some of the issues that we face as teachers.

 

Which concerns resonated most with you and the other educators?

One of the concerns is performance anxiety for children and how to prepare for that. And of course the parent participation in the children’s’ music education, that’s a very controversial topic but also it’s case by case. There were certain things that we were able to discuss which can help the students, or any musician for that matter, in their practicing process. I think these events are great, just to get people together. You know, when you get people together, there might be issues that they never thought about but once you’re together, they come up. And together just to help the community in general. This is the perfect place to do it. In combination with everything that is happening here, it’s a very busy week!

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Especially with the Steinway Piano Competition starting soon.

Eighty kids over the next four days, right? It’s wonderful.

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You mentioned performance anxiety for children, what does that look like today?

The children now are different from the children when I was a child. The issue of discipline is even more challenging nowadays with all of the distractions around. The phones, in addition to everything else that they already do. I think people have to think about piano lessons as part of the curriculum of a child’s upbringing because it really provides a different set of skills that will be beneficial for them throughout their whole life. I hope that parents won’t think of piano as something that is extra.

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Do you think it should be foundational?

Yes! If you’re going to do hockey, you should do piano. I met a student who plays basketball, hockey, piano and trombone and he’s twelve. He was playing piano just as well as he was doing his math homework. [Music] is a part of the completeness of a child’s education. You don’t have to specialize in piano, but I think to do piano and to have music in a child’s life [matters]. Maybe they will be more willing to practice because it’s a normal thing to do.

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The number of adults who regret not learning piano is so common.

Right! I would change the attitude or the approach toward music lessons.

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Does that have anything to do with repertoire? Perhaps a child is more interested in pop music than traditional repertoire?

I don’t see anything wrong with studying pop, just make sure you also do some Bach. It all goes together. What’s important is to have the skill. You’re going to learn geometry. To be honest, piano is more practical that geometry. So if you build that into the curriculum or if schools build that into the curriculum, maybe the children will be even more enthusiastic to go to a lesson. It’s an attitude change perhaps, that can help everybody.

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Do you strive for that in your own musical interactions and within the community?

Yes. We talk about a crisis in the music world but we can probably remedy that on the most basic level, which is education. If you have more children playing then you’ll have more people going to concerts. There are all kinds of different things and sometimes we have to connect the music world more closely to education. It shouldn’t be too separate. I come from an administrative point of view. Music doesn’t always have to be so serious. It’s not just for donors and bankers and lawyers. It should be for everybody, I think. They like to group, now this is an educational concert. The overall feel of the concerts can be very different, not so segregated. There is an elitist attitude in a lot of classical music and that needs to change. Not just for education but also so music is accessible to the general public. We don’t need to sacrifice programs but there are other ways of engaging larger communities.

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Is accessibility one of your core values then?

Absolutely. I have gone from completely serious to opening up a little more and thinking ‘oh wait, this is for everybody.’ It’s very hard to do because there are so many things involved. But I would like to do that more. Maybe because of the events I’m doing this week, they are very different from what I usually do. That sort of gave me the inspiration to think, ‘this has to get to more people.’

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What’s happening next for you?

I’m taking a little break in June but then the summer festivals start. I’m actually going to the San Francisco Jazz Festival [laughter]. I know, right? A classical musician going, but I’ve been touring with Phillip Glass these last few years. He wrote twenty piano etudes so I get to tour with him where I play some of the etudes, he plays some and other pianists play some. One of the stops we’re doing is San Francisco in July.

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And you’re taking June off, for some quiet time?

It’s more about regrouping thoughts and preparing for the next season. You need to have breaks because you’re preparing different repertoire. Also, I need to clean my apartment!

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Love her story? Check out this beautiful book and album trailer for Melody’s Mostly Musical Day written by Ben Finane and illustrated by Mikela Prevost with the accompanying album by Jenny Lin.

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