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AP Percussion Young Artist Interview Series: A Hongkonger in Melbourne

Therese Ng Hoi Yan 吳凱恩

About Me

I am a concert percussionist and educator based in Melbourne. Being born and raised in Hong Kong, I started learning piano and percussion at an early age. I moved to Melbourne when I was 16 years old. I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, where I received intensive music education and performance training. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours and a Master of Music in Performance Teaching from the University of Melbourne, under the tuition of Steve Falk and Peter Neville. Some highlighted awards that I have won over the years include the 1st Prize in the ENKOR International Music Competition, the 1st Prize in the Australia Marimba Competition and the 2nd Prize in the Concerto Competition for Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. I am currently pursuing a Master in Teaching at the Australian Catholic University, along with sharing my love for music as a passionate educator to students across Melbourne.

Therese at 17 years old, taken at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.

One of the percussion practice rooms at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music

Music and I

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I was an active orchestra member since high school, and have performed with the Hong Kong Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and the Melbourne Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra. I also love performing in a chamber setting and collaborating with different instruments. After all, performing on the marimba is my biggest passion. I have a broad musical taste and have played a lot of new music pieces written for percussion or the marimba. I also started to arrange and compose music in a more popular style. I used to think that popular music was easier to play on the marimba than new music. It took me not long to realise that it is not the case, but I enjoyed the challenge.

It is a natural human desire to being understood and connected with other human beings. Communication plays a very important role in this process. I can speak fluent English, Cantonese and Mandarin, but music allows me to connect with others and express myself without boundaries. When I am performing on the stage, I am connected with my audience, telling a story, or expressing my emotions. Even though they cannot understand me fully, I hope they will feel something special from my music.

Take Me Home” Marimba Recital in Hong Kong, 2019
Performing at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, 2019

Getting out there ✈

In the last couple of years, I had many wonderful opportunities to travel and perform globally. Participating and performing at the Australian Percussion Gathering in Brisbane, Percussive Art Society (PAS) in Italy, Inc. Percussion Event in Japan, PAS Hong Kong and PASIC in the U.S. allowed me to learn about the international standard of percussion playing and make a lot of new friends. In September 2019, I received a travelling scholarship from the University of Melbourne to study marimba with Keiko Abe and live in Japan for almost two months. Abe Sensei is a strict teacher, yet she is very kind and helpful. In our last lesson, I performed my favourite piece of hers, “Marimba d’amore” and I was extremely honoured to receive her recognition. I treasured the time we chatted while enjoying the tea and cookies that she prepared. It is one of the most precious memories that I will keep in my heart forever.

During a lesson with Keiko Abe. I was playing “Time For Marimba” by Minoru Miki.
Keiko Abe loved the painting I drew for her.

At first, I thought living alone in another country would be difficult and lonely, but then I found myself being surrounded by many new and wonderful friends. The percussion students at Toho Gakuen School of Music were extremely nice and helpful to me. We spent a lot of quality time playing for each other, talking about music and hanging out. I was living at an Airbnb which was a lovely three stories house at the bottom of the mountain, where I met some friends from Japan, Italy and England. We had dinner together almost every night, went shopping together and toured around Tokyo. We also watched a movie without subtitles in the cinema. I have learnt that it is common for Japanese people to visit the cinema alone, and it is the norm for the audience to stay in their seats until the end of the credit scene. It was wonderful to catch up with some old friends during my stay in Japan, and I have met with Kuniko Kato and Nanae Mimura, too. When I was alone, I would sit at a café, ordered a black coffee and enjoy my book. I missed every single moment of that trip!

Taken at Toho Gakuen School of Music.
With my housemates.

One of the most fantastic things about being a musician is that you get to meet a lot of people from all over the world, people who can be very different from you, but you all share the same passion and language. Even we cannot travel nowadays, I still keep in close contact with my friends overseas via video calls. I cannot wait to meet them in person again!

As much as I love traveling around the world, I also enjoy the life in Melbourne, being a dynamic city with a big blue sky, warm sea breezes, delicious brunches, authentic cuisines, nice coffee, and good wine, etc. Unlike most other cities in Australia, the shops and restaurants in Melbourne open until quite late, so you can always get a good balance between natural scenic views and city nightlife. Melbourne is also well known for having four seasons in a day. You can experience stormy and sunny weather within a day with a temperature ranging from 10℃ to 25℃. It would be nice if there is snow, too. However, Hong Kong is still my hometown and favourite city. I usually return to Hong Kong twice a year to reunite with my friends or to perform in concerts. I cannot wait to go back again soon!

Extremely grateful for a covid-free summer after seven months of lock down in Melbourne.

Keep going 🎵

Passion” Marimba and Piano Recital, also known as the only live concert I performed in 2020.

I want to play everything on the marimba because it is such a beautiful and magnificent instrument. I enjoy playing different kinds of music, including solo repertoires, classical music arrangements, and even pop songs that I enjoy listening to on a daily basis. Since the COVID-19 restrictions started, I have made more arrangements and recordings at home. It is such a fun thing to do and makes me happier during this difficult time. In the process of musical arrangement, I would try to make the song sounds authentic on the marimba, using the techniques that I have. I wish my audience will enjoy the music in the new form. I want more people to listen to marimba music and to love the sound of this instrument. That is why I keep on making song covers. There are some postponed plans including live performances and a new percussion ensemble project that I am looking forward to announcing soon if circumstances allowed, so please stay tuned! In the meantime, let us keep on smiling, dreaming and making music.

Released my first album in 2020.

Please feel free to follow me for musical updates:

If you or any of your friends have been working or studying percussion related subjects in the Asia Pacific area, please do not hesitate to contact us! APPS will arrange interviews to share more unique percussive life stories.

Tap on Pacific hearts,​ Strike up Asia.​

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