Discovering Passion for Violin
For more than a decade, violin has been an essential piece of the Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Lower Primary School education thanks to its proven benefits in enhancing student brain development, hand-eye coordination, and discipline. Beyond these benefits, however, many students at YCIS Beijing discover a lifelong love of music, choosing to continue their musical studies even after their last group concert in Year 3.
Chen An Lee, a current Year 8 student, began her Yew Chung International School of Beijing career in Year 1, when she was first exposed to the school’s violin programme. Nurturing her interest in the instrument, the programme allowed her initial interest to blossom into a true passion. Below, Chen An discusses her experience with her favorite instrument, her musical tastes, and how playing the violin has helped her grow as a person.
When did you first discover your passion for music?
In Year 1, even though I wasn’t that good when I first started playing, I thought the violin was really cool. I loved that they were teaching us this instrument instead of the piano (it feels like everyone plays the piano). The violin teachers said I was pretty good for my age, so they invited me to perform as part of a concert for Seeds of Hope. This was a great experience and really inspired me to continue practicing and learning the instrument.
What school ensembles or bands do you play in?
I currently play in the Senior Orchestra. I used to take violin lessons, but now I just practice on my own. I don’t really like the kind of music that violin teachers traditionally give you to learn. I prefer playing what I want to play. I really like the orchestra because the pieces [Head of Orchestra] Ms. Yu chooses match with the kind of music I personally like to play.
What kind of music do you enjoy performing most?
Classical music and pop songs are my favorite! In a recent performance, we played this Tchaikovsky medley that had exciting parts, dramatic parts, and calm parts all in the same piece. I really enjoyed the mixture of tempo and feeling throughout this particular piece.
What performances or pieces learned have you been most proud of and why?
Last year, I performed at the British Ball where we played in the Hall of the Mountain King. It was my first time playing such a hard song, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly, so I was really proud of that afterwards.
How have your YCIS Beijing teachers supported you throughout your music career?
After my violin classes ended in Year 3, I continued going to the morning practice run by Ms. Guo regularly. I joined the Primary orchestra in Years 4-5. In Year 6, I worked with my old music teacher Ms. Kersey, who encouraged me to join the senior orchestra. Ms. Yu was also very supportive of me at this time.
One of my favorite things about my experience with my teachers at YCIS Beijing is that they don’t call you out or correct you in front of everyone. Even though I’m not as good as some of my older classmates, they never discourage or criticize me. Both Ms. Kersey and Ms. Yu make a lot of jokes during practice, which makes it really fun. Ms. Yu especially is very interactive with all of us; even though there are a lot of people in the orchestra, she never excludes anyone and always strive to make sure everyone feels included.
How do you feel being involved in music has helped you grow as a person? What have you learned through this experience?
Before I learnt the violin I was really, really shy. I wouldn’t want to do things or perform in front of people, including concerts. I would be constantly cringing when performing. After a few concerts, however, I got the hang of it and now I’m less shy around people and more confident in what I’m playing. It’s helped me when I present in class too.
I also feel like I work with other people better. I used to be really independent and introverted, but now I like and even prefer working with others, which is definitely thanks to my experience with the orchestra.
What are your goals for your music career in the coming year? Is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish?
I want to try to be selected to play Violin 1 in the Senior Orchestra next year. I’m playing Violin 2 currently, but now that the Year 13 students are leaving, I want to take one of their places in the Violin 1 section. It’s going to be really hard, but I really want to do that!