Amy Huang

Amy Huang on stage in 2016 Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

Violinist Amy Huang wins the Big Brother Movement Youth Support Awards

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2016 NSW Doctors Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship finalist Amy Huang is looking forward to violin lessons and a possible audition at the Royal College of Music in London, thanks to an $8,000 classical music prize she received from the Big Brother Movement Youth Support Awards recently.

This was a busy year for 17-year-old Amy who also placed second in the Violin (19/u) event. And she is currently part of the Rising Stars Program with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, studying with professor Ole Bohn.

On October 11 she played a master-class for Benjamin Beilman, a graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music who won the Montreal International Musical Competition in 2010.

Amy will use the prize to fund a month-long trip to London, where she will attend recitals and master classes in as many schools as possible, meet with teachers to improve her technique and expand her knowledge and understanding of music.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic as much as possible. This is such a wonderful opportunity to explore a completely different music scene,” Amy said.

How did you feel about being selected as a finalist for the Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship this year?

I was pleasantly surprised, you could say. The field was so competitive and impressive this year, which was really nice, as it meant that I didn’t pressure myself with expectations. I found all of the rounds to be very enjoyable and rewarding, as all I had to do was give the best possible performance I could and listen to other fantastic musicians. It was of course also a great – albeit slightly daunting – honour to have my performance broadcast live on Fine Music 102.5 in line with those of 5 other immensely talented people.

Would you encourage young instrumentalists to compete in the Sydney Eisteddfod?

Definitely. For budding young artists of any age, it is crucial to expose oneself to as many different performing conditions as possible to learn how to adapt and harness performance anxiety. Sydney Eisteddfod hosts a wonderful variety of events in which one can practise performing all different sorts of repertoire, which is very useful. Many people of varying standards partake in these events, and I find listening to other people very beneficial in several ways. Applying what you learn from other people’s mistakes and strengths can really boost your performance. It can also be very inspiring and spark competitiveness, thereby encouraging the student to work harder by presenting them with goals. I strongly believe that eisteddfods are necessary for young performers to overcome perceptions that they are ‘the best’. In such a stressful field where progress is never-ending, you can never be ‘the best’ – only your best. It really develops a sense of humility – receiving feedback from adjudicators forces you to understand your performance from the audience’s point of view, which can only improve your playing.

Congratulations on winning the $8,000 classical music category in the Big Brother Movement Youth Support Awards. Were you thrilled with the win?

Thank you! Yes, it was absolutely amazing. This is such a great opportunity for me to observe music in a different part of the world and grow in my understanding. Also, my application was really last minute – my mum organised it all of course – and I’ve heard that the Awards are usually given to under and postgraduate students, so we weren’t expecting anything at all! I suppose mum must’ve done a good job.

What are you planning on doing with the prize?

I’ll use the money to pay for flights to and from the UK and accommodation, but hopefully I’ll have plenty left over! My plans are so far centred on London where I’m planning to have as many lessons as possible, mostly at the Royal College of Music. I love concerts and orchestral music, so I’m looking forward to hearing the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic as much as possible. I’m also considering auditioning for the Royal College of Music, so some money might go towards that if it happens.

Are you looking forward to the experience?

Of course! This is such a wonderful opportunity to explore a completely different music scene. In Australia, we’re quite isolated from the rest of the world, so it will be very interesting to see the differences in teaching style, approach, attitude, standard and just environment in general. I absolutely love London – I went on exchange to St. Paul’s Girls’ School two years ago, which is where Holst taught from 1905-1934. So I’ve already had a taste of how wonderful music is there and cannot wait to go back and discover more!

When did you become interested in playing the violin?

It’s a bit fuzzy in my memory, but I know that I loved listening to my dad [who is a member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra] play and wanted to be like him and my brothers, whose lessons I often went to. However, my father insisted that I learn piano first to understand the basics, and I recall hiding my reluctant excitement as I attended my first piano lesson. I ended up actually loving the piano more than the violin, which I started 5 months after when I was 6 years old. Now that I’ve been playing violin more in high school and have stopped piano, I have come to enjoy and appreciate it much more.

Your father Shuti Huang plays violin for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Do you wish to follow in his footsteps?

My dad has definitely always been a source of inspiration for me. He’s a very fine musician, and I have been very privileged in that his playing has exposed me to a lot of beautiful music ever since I was born. While I would definitely like to play in an orchestra one day, I would also like to gain some solo and chamber experience, if possible, so that I can become a truly well rounded musician. We always like to think that, if he could start violin at 16 and now be in an internationally renowned orchestra, what can I do?

How does playing the violin make you feel?

Well, that depends on whether I’m practising or performing. Practising is a very cleansing, enjoyable experience and good for the conscience – it makes me feel more confident and more enthusiastic the more I play. I sometimes connect most to my repertoire when I’m really warmed up at home or in a lesson, and it can be very exhausting, but rewarding. Performances are a different matter – in the moment, everything seems crystal clear. If I’m composed and mentally focussed, it’s still very thrilling. There is so much adrenaline. It’s difficult to remove yourself from expectations in a performance, but afterwards, I can barely remember my performance. It all becomes a blur, which is a probably a good thing, as I can therefore move on, whether it was a good or bad experience.

What are your dreams for the future?

I like to leave it a bit in the air and take things as they come. Life would be a bit dull if I had it all planned out! So far, my plans are to study overseas at some point in the near future and play as much solo, chamber and orchestral repertoire as possible. My dream is really just to form bonds with other musicians and hopefully play in a way that will inspire other people to explore classical music. I’d also be pretty happy with a position as concertmaster of an orchestra. The prospect of teaching is pretty fascinating for me too.

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