Amy Yang, pianist, was just named our Program Director at the Curtis Institute of Music High School Music Program. We talked with her to get to know her better and also hear some valuable advice she could offer to musicians.
What is the most memorable part of Your career?
There are many highlight performances on which I think back with fondness. One particular one is sharing the stage (and piano) with Richard Goode in Schumann’s Bilder aus Osten (for one piano, four-hands) at the Marlboro Music Festival in 2009. It was an incredible privilege (and slightly surreal experience!) making music next to someone whose recordings, teaching, and performances profoundly shaped my musical development.
What do you tell your young music students about preparing for a competition or performance?
Work extremely hard at sculpting an interpretation of the piece that’s meticulously studied but also uniquely your own and play it with great conviction, rapture, poetry and unrelenting beauty!
What do you think is the most important part of teaching music?
I think the best teachers impart four things to the student:
- affirmation that his/her inner creative world can be tremendously colorful, powerful, and real.
- the thirst to be inquisitive, independent and dynamic thinkers.
- intelligent and bold interpretive skills in knowing how to read scores and markings;
- kinesthetic knowledge to help the student translate from the aural to the physical realm at the instrument.
(A really fine teacher also inspires the student to be curious about other art forms too!) I’m not sure how teaching music has changed, but perhaps since musicology expanded as a field of study, there’s more emphasis on “doing the right thing” in the score.
Are there other composers/artists you feel a special affinity for and whose music you like to play and record? Who are they?
I love so much great music written in so many different times and styles, but if I had to pick my “desert island” composers, they would be Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. Out of these mighty six, I feel a great affinity to Schumann and actually founded The Schumann Project, a large-scale project that aims to present his major solo piano, chamber, and vocal works in a mega-cycle.
Was there pressure for you to become professional?
No. My choice in choosing a career in music has been fully supported by my family and I’m extremely grateful for the sacrifices they made. My family is full of musicians, in fact: my grandfather was a choral conductor; my father is a composer; and mother, a soprano.
What is your favorite thing about the Curtis Institute of Music?
Its incredible lineage of legendary musicians who sought for truth and beauty in their music-making! And its equally incredible current body of visionary musicians taking that torch and lighting it in wonderful places not afore dreamed of.
What instrument do you play?
Piano!! I love playing the piano and wouldn’t trade my life as a musician for anything else. I also have a classical guitar and love their repertoire.
Rapid Fire Favorites;
When I was 16…
I was in a rigorously academic high school so my days were challenged in terms of finding the right balance between practicing and managing schoolwork. However, I’m grateful for the education I received, especially in subjects like English, algebra, biology, and geography (such fun to color in maps of African countries!). Having said that, there were classes in which I strayed from excelling. 9am gym classes, for example, with its floor exercise routines are tucked in the “banished memories” department.
People would be surprised to know…
I’m cultivating an interest in gardening. My Father is an avid gardener on the side and his place is a haven for fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. I recently planted some garlic and scallions into a flower pot, and lo and behold, they are flourishing on my windowsill, ready to garnish my next stir fry!
Favorite things about Philadelphia?
The warmth of its people. The artwork in The Barnes Museum. Riding my bike around the Schuylkill River Trail.
Favorite place to eat in Philadelphia?
Lots to name. If you enjoy Korean food, I recommend a steaming bowl of galbi tang from Miga. For frozen treats, go to Yogurino and Capogiro.
Favorite thing to do besides music?
I’m inclined towards the visual arts so love to draw, paint, go to museums, read art history, and take photos with my Canon DSLR. Recently, I purchased an iPad, which has proved a handy travel companion for sketching intriguing neighbors while I’m on the road. Beware of the next time you are in my vicinity, when my web-surfing countenance behind the iPad may be camouflaging a sketcher quickly trying to capture your lovely presence! To see some art, go to www.amyjyang.com.
So many! Il Postino, Paris Je T’aime, Dreams (Kurosawa), To Live, Raise the Red Lantern, Farewell My Concubine, Children of Paradise, Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, My Life as a Dog, Encounters at the End of the World, Frida, Pan’s Labyrinth, Butterfly, Babette’s Feast, The Hours, Volver, The Skin I Live In, etc.
I have a few at the moment: To Live by Yu Hua, Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino, Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age” by John Daverio, Lost and Found by Shaun Tan, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and On Photography by Susan Sontag. My favorites of all time are Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke and Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Kandinsky, and I really admire the poetic creations of Mary Oliver, Dickinson, Shakespeare, Li-Young Lee, Yeats, Neruda, and Franz Wright.
Favorite TV Show?
I don’t have a TV (by choice) but if I were to acquire one, I think I could be found glued to the finely culled programs on PBS.
What are you listening to on your iPod?
Annie Fischer’s Schumann, Mengelberg’s Brahms, Claude Frank’s Beethoven sonatas, Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, Glenn Gould’s Siegfried-Idyll, Guarneri Quartet’s third movement of Beethoven’s Op. 135, Rachmaninoff Vespers, Julian Bream, and some Josh Ritter, Jobim, Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday, and 60-Second Mind podcasts.