Why the Big Smoke?
I moved to London in 2016 to study classical piano and make music in a challenging new environment. I picked the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, a music university in the heart of the Barbican Centre, where one can fully immerse themselves in an environment where all of the arts are celebrated. Concerts, plays, pop-up art installations and immersive music experiences are available to me every other night, and on my doorstep. If I get bored of the ticking beat of the metronome in the stale practice room, I can walk over to the art gallery or the conservatory, or read a book on the lakeside for some downtime and inspiration.
No Day is the Same, but I run into the same problems…
I am on the Artist Diploma course, so for me, a day in the life of a music student is not unlike a day in the life of any professional freelance musician hoping to make ends meet while still dedicating time to their passion for making music. I start the day with logging online to my school portal to find a rehearsal space for the next few days. Usually the school practice spaces are fully booked with staff needing to occupy the rooms - sometimes singing coaches who do not even use the grand pianos, or use them as glorified coffee tables! As a pianist, one can easily become stressed and frustrated with the lack of options on a day to day basis. Inspiration and motivation could strike at any time, yet we don’t have a rehearsal space to channel this creativity when we feel it is most strong. This problem however, is normal for many music conservatories across Europe and globally, which is why I was enthusiastic to join Music Traveler in its mission. As a young musician who knows countless other friends who struggle to find a room to practice their art, I really believe in the need for the service.
Work hard, play hard
If I do manage to find a practice room, I will be working on whatever I am preparing for the next months. Currently I am preparing for the 2019 Gian Battista Viotti competition in Italy, where we are required to have almost 3 hours of varied classical and contemporary repertoire to have memorised and at performance level. I also have rehearsals with my piano trio for upcoming concerts, and these are the most fun since I find collaborating with other musicians more enjoyable than preparing for solo competitions.
At the Guildhall School we have an excellent lakeside area adjacent to the Barbican Centre, where students can mingle and have a coffee or just lie in the sun if the London weather allows it. I sometimes squeeze in a quick workout at the gym nearby, or I head to the Whitecross Street Market where I have tried almost every food stand there is (tip: Beijummy makes the yummiest Brazilian flatbread wraps and the guys who work there are awesome!)
Along with my practice schedule is my work as a steward for concerts and theatre shows that the Guildhall School offers year round. Stewarding the annual auditions is a particularly rewarding way to make some extra money, as I love to meet people in all areas of the arts, not only pianists. When I see how passionate some young singers and instrumentalists are, their energy and drive almost always motivates me to keep going and doing what I love for a living: to make music!
Written by Kathy Chow