Manasa B. ’23, Piano
Sonata Pathétique II: Adagio Cantabile by Ludwig van Beethoven
I worked on this piece a few years ago, and it is one of my favorite piano pieces. This song's challenge comes with bringing out the sweet and slow melody while playing background notes with the same hand. This technique requires the pianist to divide their hand into two sections and develop control over the dynamics. I love playing this piece because of its subtlety and how it invariably brings me to a calm and happy state. Music that triggers different emotions and allows you to connect with what is happening in your own life is my absolute favorite kind, and Adagio cantabile fits in this category.
For much of the past year and a half, expanding my repertoire of performable pieces has been a challenge. I have been working on an involved Chopin Etude (Op. 25 No. 11), and for most of that duration, it was the only piece I put my attention on. Early on, the pandemic had also negatively affected the frequency of my piano lessons and my learning speed. When starting the school year, I realized that I needed to polish some smaller pieces for performance. Working on smaller pieces alongside my larger one has helped me, as I have developed more variety in my repertoire, and practicing has become more fun.
Playing some pieces that I already learned has helped me better my styling and dynamics. For example, the Beethoven piece I am playing has gotten me back into playing with musicality and technique rather than only playing to get the notes into my fingers and memorize them.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much more enjoyable practicing is when I have a piece that I already have in my fingers to come back to. I worked on the same Chopin Etude for a year and a half, and it became a bit tedious. Pulling out old pieces felt like a nice break while still giving me a piece to improve on. My first time performing since before the pandemic was in class this semester. I was certainly a lot more nervous than I have been about performing in the past. I had a memory slip during that performance. Since then, I have been going to the practice rooms with my friends, having them listen to me play. That helped my nerves a lot. When playing for Emma Artists classes, I learned that memory slips are possible even after playing a piece for years. I also learned that performing with no prior expectation helps tell me whether my piece is as performance-ready as I thought it was.
Over the next year, I am looking forward to performing more often, whether the pieces I play are new or old.
Anya B. ’25, Mezzo Soprano
"Autumn" by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire
I interpret this piece as a song of nostalgia and grief. In this piece, the singer feels like they're back in Autumn, a season they dread. They are missing a better time of clarity and joy, which is summer. I was drawn to this song because of its dreamy feeling of nostalgia. At the beginning of last summer, I moved from Washington state to the east coast. I dream about the evergreen state every day and of the rigid Oregon coastline that could only ever exist in fairytales. I also dream of the nights I spent under the stars wondering what life may be like when I'm older. When listening to this piece, although abstract, try to hear the narrator's longing.
While studying music this year, specifically singing, the most significant challenge I faced was feeling comfortable in my voice. Before February’s recital, I had never sung in any recital or public performance. I have studied the voice for years, yet I have never had an opportunity to perform live. However, after spending almost every morning in choirs and taking vocal lessons at Emma, I can say that I’ve successfully eliminated most of my fear of public performing.
As an independent artist, I grew significantly in my control. In the past, I would either improvise when I didn't know a part of a song, tense up, or lose my stamina because I would not control my breathing. Focusing on my technique has allowed me to improve almost every aspect of my voice. Having control is essential for me as I have been working on expanding my vocal range. In an ensemble setting, I gained a better understanding of harmonization and mixing with other vocal parts. I also have noticed better consistency and sound more in tune when singing in a group.
I surprised myself by having a wider range than I intended. I work very well with low notes, so I have always considered myself an alto. However, working with my voice at Emma has shown me that I can sing incredibly high notes that I thought I would never produce.
I look forward to working with the other Emma artists!
Lucia B-C. ’24, Piano
Invention 10, BWV 781 by Johann Sebastian Bach
I was assigned Bach’s Invention, No. 10 by my piano teacher after explicitly telling him that I couldn't stand the technicalities of Bach. I wanted drama—he had assigned me a Schubert Impromptu earlier that year and I was really enjoying it, but I was having a lot of difficulty with the technical aspect of playing quickly, getting to notes fast enough, etc. My piano teacher decided that the way to move forward was to have a piece that explicitly targeted those problems, so to my chagrin I was assigned the Bach as a way of fixing the Schubert. To my surprise, I loved my Bach piece as much as a piece I would've chosen myself. It was difficult, especially the polyrhythms, and the fact that it's a piece where neither the left hand or right hand really get a break so a lot of coordination had to be done in order to succeed.
This year, practice time was so difficult to find because my schedule was always so packed, so improving my playing was a slow uphill climb but the work that I did do was a lot more productive than it had ever been because I was so eager to improve and share my work with my peers.
I got a lot better at performing because of all the opportunities to play in front of my peers offered at Emma Artists.
How much just being a part of Emma Artists positively impacted my practicing and motivation- being surrounded by people I knew were just as passionate about music as I was helped astronomically with the work that I put in.
I’m super super excited to learn the new piece I was just assigned! I got a Mozart Sonata in C minor and I have never played a C minor piece before. Additionally, it’s very dramatic and stormy and romantic which is always a plus in any piece I play.
Krisha J. ’24, Piano
"Tarantella" by Paul Beaumont
Paul Beaumont was a pen-name of the 19th century English composer Edward Sydney Smith. Tarantella is one of his brilliant salon works for piano. I found that this piece incorporates a lot of technique and intricate, yet accurate movement of the fingers. It has what can be called a “small technique”. I gravitated towards a piece like this, as the piece I previously had performed, was much slower and focused on the bigger picture or sound, rather than minute details. When listening to this piece, one should note the almost “dance-like” rhythm. Tarantella is in fact, an Italian folk dance. “Tarantella” is derived from the Italian word tarantola, meaning “tarantula.” The tarantola gets its name from the town of Taranto in Puglia, where the people being bitten by a Tarantula, were in the sense “dancing” away the poison. Who knew such a grim issue would rise to such a beautiful type of music in the arts!
I would say the challenge and success in this piece was trying to play “Tarantella” in a way that reflects the essence of the piece itself. Trying to make certain parts in the piece sound like a creepy crawling spider and other parts like some happy dancers trying to get rid of the spider’s poison was a very interesting thing to achieve during the process of playing “Tarantella”.
I think I have grown in my practice this year. I have begun to practice line by line, measure by measure, as opposed to just playing the pieces from beginning to end. I have been practicing lines more often that need more work and made sure to see if I was completely ready with each part, before proceeding. I also made sure to bring the right dynamics and feel to the individual parts of the piece.
I look forward to bringing this story to your ears through this piece!
Casy L. ’23 and Jenny S. ’24, Choreographers/Dancers
Music: “Happy Shine” by Depapepe
Last semester, we choreographed the piece 1cm, retrospecting our childhood memories. That piece was quite sentimental, so this semester, we decided to choreograph a piece that can bring happiness. However, our idea deviated a bit from our original expectation because we could not find suitable music. We ended up choosing “Happy Shine” by DEPAPEPE, which is a bright and lively song without lyrics and reminds people of sunshine, beach, and the sea.
Our dance intends to tell a story about two people who coincidentally met each other by the beach and spent time together enjoying life. In the current bustling society, people tend to live a very busy life, and the connection between individuals becomes looser through time. Everyone is trying to use up every second of their life, and it’s been a luxury to “waste time”. We hope our dance can remind people to take a break and start to spend more time with the ones important to them. Our dance is called “Las Coloradas”, which is a pink beach in Mexico. We grant this name to our dance in order to express our wish of spending the happiest time with the ones we cherish on the most romantic beach.
Jianing Claire L. ’23, Mezzo Soprano
Amarilli Mia Bella by Giulio Caccini
Amarilli Mia Bella is a baroque piece from the Renaissance period composed by Italian musician Giulio Caccini. As one of the first pieces departing from the early Renaissance polyphonic style, Amarilli was published in Caccini’s collection Le Nuove Musiche as a monodic piece with simpler accompaniment. I was drawn to this piece because I was listening to one of my favorite mezzo Cecilia Bartoli’s performances of some baroque pieces, and Amarilli stood out to me a lot more magically than intentionally with its beautiful melody. It is challenging in terms of rhythm and articulation of the details, and sometimes the length of breaths-- the last sentence is especially long. With a relatively narrower range of the piece, I wish to focus on the messages of love conveyed by the composer to bring out the magicality of the piece, so I wish that my audiences would be able to feel its existence from my performance too.
The major success would be that I started taking voice lessons, and that singing has become one of my favorite things to do, which I think is important to both my musical studies and my personal life. I’ve decided to try out in the mezzo soprano range instead of sticking with soprano for choir. Technically, switching between registers has been especially challenging, which would make it also a success too, because I’ve overcome some of the issues I encountered.
I completed my first solo performance with choral music in front of people (although the entire audience has only six people) for studio class, and I am growing willing to step out of my cocoons into new opportunities that will lead me to surprises, like how it has already done to my exploration in the mezzo ranges.
I’m surprised at how much I love singing in the lower registers, when I have to blend my voice together to create richer combinations for the pieces I perform. This discovery released myself from the limit I had set for no apparent reasons but indulgence in mind to try new things out, and I wish to continue my exploration next year as well
I look forward to performing! The recital at the end of the year would be my first time performing myself in front of an audience of more than six people, which is nerve wracking but exciting at the same time.
Mehar S. ’24, Taus and Voice
Kahe Re Ban Khojan Jayee by Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji
In this piece and this raag, Raag Dhanasaree, a sense of carefreeness and contentment is emphasized. When I first heard this piece, I was drawn to the melody of the raag and the feeling of reassurance and love that was so strong nothing could question it. I wanted to be able to convey these emotions, and make sure that even if someone could not understand my language, they understood what I felt. The main line is a question, and the line after is a response, so be sure to listen to that, and the responses and feelings from the other verses.
I struggled with changing teachers and jumping between two instruments. Because I am more experienced with the harmonium than the taus, I found myself wanting to play the harmonium more and going back to it as a sort of crutch. I struggled with being more independent with the taus, but as I am getting used to my new teacher, I am encouraging myself to work on my skills with my newer instrument as well.
I've seen myself grow this year from my vocal training that I had never done before. I noticed that my voice was clearer, and it felt almost easier to sing with vocal practice rather than just relying on the instrument like I had done before. I'm still working on developing my voice, but I have already seen a difference in my comfort with singing.
I surprised myself this year as I had never played pieces with "alaap" and more complicated "sargam," however, this year, I was able to confidently and comfortably do both. I had always wanted to do these things, but they seemed difficult and out of reach, so I was surprised when I was able to pick them up fairly easily.
I am looking forward to refining my musical skills, especially with the taus as I try to do "sargam" and "alaap" on this instrument. I have never done it before, but I will be practicing and developing my skills vocally and with the taus, especially for "alaap" and "sargam." I have always wanted to sing like a classical singer, and by developing these skills I see myself getting closer to that goal.
Qiming Coco Y. ’25, Flute
Sonata I in e minor, HWV 359b by George Frideric Händel
I. Grave II. Allegro III. Adagio IV. Allegro
This year, I am working on a lot of music from the Baroque period, including the duet by Telemann, the Brandenburg Concerto by J.S. Bach in Chamber Orchestra, and the solo I am working on. My teacher Ms. Gierthy gave me three solo pieces to choose from to prepare for the New York State School Music Association. Sonata 1 in e minor by Handel caught my attention because e minor brings the piece a very interesting mood. It is not really happy or sad. The first movement is very serious and the third is slow but free. The second and the fourth movement are intense, but they also have a dancing style. I really like the dotted notes in the first movement. This piece is really challenging in many ways. For example, the second and the fourth movements are challenging in the techniques. I learned that sometimes instead of going over the piece again and again, I should pick out the hardest fingering and practice it with different rhythms and tempos. Many difficulties of this piece are related to the elements of Baroque style. Breathing was extremely hard. I practiced long tones to help me with playing long phrases. I also listened to recordings and other Baroque pieces I am working on to learn the articulation. I worked on intonation and dynamics, and also learned how they differ from other styles of music. Besides, I paid special attention to the ornaments. When listening to this piece, we should listen for the difference in the movements. We should also listen for the dynamic contrast and the pattern of rhythms. Some phrases are similar, and attention should be paid to how they are different. I did a lot of work on the ornaments on the third movement. The music sheet given to me was only a framework without any ornaments. So I listened to recordings and tried out different ornaments to create my version. I hope my audience will enjoy the interesting ornaments.
This year, I managed to practice the flute every day in my busy schedule. I had performed at two recitals and I was really happy to share the music with the community. The first performance was my first formal solo performance ever and the first time I learned to play with a piano accompaniment. I also performed the duet with Nini and played as a member of orchestra and chamber orchestra. I faced a lot of challenges in my learning. During the second semester here, my practice time was shorter because of a busier schedule. There were times that I felt like I was not improving at all. But with the help and support from my teacher and friends, I learned to be more patient with myself and persisted practicing every day, with a variety of exercises to improve. I learned to use the most of my time by choosing the phrases I need to practice. Sometimes these phrases were boring to practice, but I managed to keep myself focused as I spent time outside, relaxed once in a while and talked to my friends and teachers so that I have a balanced schedule. I sent recordings to Ms. Gierthy, asked questions and sought feedback to help me improve.
For my solo work, I have grown in my understanding of music and my ability to practice in a variety of ways. I got to understand the elements of Baroque style by playing them myself. The music became more approachable to me. I also connected playing music to my life, trying to make imagination help me have more energy in my playing. I connected the third movement in the Telemann duet to birds singing, the forest in California and traveling, which helped a lot with the overall emotion with the piece. For ensemble work, I played the duet with Nini and learned about new concepts such as the suspension. I learned some ways to cooperate better. For example, Nini and I would practice the same part together to make sure we have the same way of playing ornaments and the same tempo. We would look at and listen to each other more frequently to make sure our intonation is correct. In orchestra, I enjoyed playing with a group of students and loved playing at Eventide. In chamber orchestra, I played both part of the flute solo and violin section. By doing this, I learned more about how the different parts in the orchestra work with each other. I practiced with the other soloists in my free time and they were extremely helpful. I found myself enjoying playing with other students a lot.
I was surprised at how I was able to identify the notes better and be more creative about the choices of ornaments when I listened to the recordings of the Adagio movement of Sonata I in E Minor when I worked with Ms. Gierthy to figure out what ornaments I should add to the piece. I was also surprised by the effects of performances on me. It gave me a clearer picture of my improvements and what to work on. I realized how I enjoyed sharing music with the community.
I can't wait to start playing new pieces of music! I would love to continue learning Baroque music and also hope to try many different styles of music. I hope to practice a lot, continue to improve, learn about music, and work hard to make the most use out of my practice time as my schedule gets tighter. I look forward to playing in more ensembles, performing at recitals and concerts next year and enjoying playing music!
Qiquan Nini Y. ’25, Flute
Sonata II in E-flat Major, BWV 1031 by Johann Sebastian Bach
I. Allegro Moderato, II. Siciliano, III. Allegro
Whenever I listen to Sonata II in Eb Major by J. S. Bach, it brings me great joy and a cheerful mood. I chose this piece out of the ones my teacher provided me with to prepare for NYSSMA, for the feelings it created. The phrasing in the first movement caught my attention when I first listened to it. The second movement made me think of a gentle lullaby, and the third movement felt like a dance. While practicing, I found intonation the biggest challenge of this piece for me. To overcome this challenge, I got into the habit of keeping a tuner on while practicing and tried different ways to change the pitch of my flute sound. Like all Baroque music, breathing in this piece was also particularly challenging, so I worked on long tones to improve my endurance and studied the phrases of the piece. In this piece, the audience should listen for not only how each movement creates different feelings, but also pairs of the same phrases. They echo each other and show up in all movements in various ways.
This year, I had the opportunity to perform at two recitals. In the November Recital, it was the first time I performed a solo piece and with a piano accompaniment. In the February Recital, I played a duet with my twin sister Coco. I also performed the same duet at a Flute Day at SUNY Schenectady School of Music and played in a flute ensemble there. I also played the flute at Eventide, in both Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. Along with my achievements, my progress in playing the flute felt very slow at times. There were many times when I felt stuck in my practices. It was especially challenging to improve my intonation and breathing. My practice time also got more limited as my school life got busier. So I tried to focus more on enjoying the music while playing and asked for help from my teacher whenever I needed to. I encouraged myself when I had doubts and worked on my time management. Practice time became a space for me to spend time focusing on music and to refresh myself for my busy days.
In this semester, I learned to show dynamics in the music better than before, improved my intonation and endurance in various different ways, and learned to show the elements of style, especially in Baroque music, as I spent most of this year working on Baroque pieces. In addition, I also improved basic flute techniques and developed a better understanding of music. I grew in my collaboration skills for ensemble work through practicing the duet with my sister and playing in the orchestra. In my experiences working with other musicians, I learned more about harmonic concepts like suspension, and learned to listen to other parts and to keep the tune together. Along the way, I also became more confident in playing the flute.
It always surprises me when I realize how much I have progressed on a piece of music, as the process can feel very slow. When I was practicing the Telemann duet, I was frustrated since I couldn't feel my progress. But when I listened back to my previous recordings, I was greatly surprised how much I had grown in all different aspects with 2 months of consistent practice. It also gave me a surprise when my dynamics finally stood out when I played my Bach solo in my flute lesson, as I felt myself struggling with it a few weeks ago. In the recitals, I was amazed how the audience could have such a great effect on performers. The applause from them gave me great confidence to perform and made me more excited than nervous to share the music with the community.
I look forward to the next phase of my musical studies at Emma! I can’t wait to try out different pieces, to learn more about music theory and elements of style while figuring out my way through the challenges I will face. I look forward to future opportunities of performances to share my music. I am excited about continuing to play as part of the orchestra and hope to have more ensemble opportunities. In the next school year, I will keep up my hard work and keep seeking help and improvement. Looking forward to the next challenges and the beautiful moments playing the flute will bring me in the future!
Yuxin Audrey Z. ’25, Mezzo Soprano
Lascia chi'io pianga by George Frideric Handel
I first studied this piece when I was in the sixth grade. After my voice studies and vocal growth over the last two years, I discovered that I developed an ease when singing high notes. Moreover, this is one of the first foreign language songs I have ever learned and it bears lots of my good memories.
The success of the year is that I get to slow down and review a lot of songs I sang before and have a more in-depth revision process. The challenge is my breathing and finding the right place to breathe when I sing.
As an artist, I have overcome stage fright a little more and have a steadier voice and breath.
I am surprised to see other brilliant singers at Emma. When I was in China, I never had friends who wished to sing classical music in a more professional way.
I look forward to learning a few pieces that I have always wanted to learn and I wish I can present them in greater events in school, in Troy and perhaps in New York State.
Musical Synergy (Stella L. '23, Joanna L. '23, Anita M. '23, Casy L. '23, Tiffany M. '23) - Guzheng, Chinese Bamboo Flute, Flute, Piano, Violin
“One Summer’s Day” by Joe Hisaishi
The piece we will play for Emma Artist Day is Joe Hisaishi’s “One Summer’s Day,” which is the piece we played in the February recital. We believe the song would be especially fitting for Emma Artist Day since it is on a summer day in May. The piece is written in C major with a combination of both eastern and western elements, including many enharmonic minor chords and a beautiful parallel structure.
At the beginning of the school year, due to everyone’s different schedule, we found it difficult to find a time to meet and practice as a group. Successes: As a group, we learned how to coordinate to perform the music piece; we performed our piece well in February Recital.
Unlike last year when all of our group members were dispersed across the globe, we are now all on campus and started to practice together in person. Through our in-person rehearsals, everyone has grown to become a better ensemble member.
Stella L. '23: “One Summer’s Day” is in C major, which is a key that is uncommonly played on the Guzheng. For the Guzheng, the notation changes with each key (due to the strings’ scale degrees), so I had to quickly adapt to the new notation while practicing alone to prepare for group rehearsals.
Anita M. '23: As the flutist, I found my part in this piece was not hard. However, I realized that my task was not only to perform my part well but also to coordinate with other instrument players. Therefore, I learned the importance of adjusting my dynamics or timbre to play with other instruments to perform the piece harmoniously. The performance in Recital in February was also my first time having an in-person Recital performance, so I was nervous at first. But since everyone in this group practiced our own parts every week, and we as a group practiced a lot before the Recital, we performed this piece well in the Recital. This experience inspired me to become confident in performing in the future.
Joanna L. '23: At first it was hard to figure out which flute I should use because of the distinct difference between Chinese Bamboo flute and other instruments. After we figured out the key, my mom sent the flute that matches back from China all the way to Emma, and I eventually got to practice after this problem was solved. Small challenges also emerged during practice, it was inevitable for me to lose pace, especially some parts that we slightly changed. Thanks to my teammates' patient help, as soon as I made a mistake, they would start over again for me so I can re-practice with other’s music accompaniment. Eventually, I was able to play all my parts, and let the flute cooperate with other instruments during every practice and performance. I can see my improvements gradually, and this is how “One Summer’s Day” helped me grow as an artist.
Casy L. '23: “One Summer’s Day” has a part that involves continuous octaves, which I practiced a lot, so I improved on playing octaves. I am also getting better at performing in an ensemble. I have only played solo before, which I focused entirely on my fingers; but playing with an ensemble, I have to constantly listen to the others. I am getting better at this throughout this year’s practice.
Tiffany M. '23: Playing in a large ensemble allowed me to develop my listening and communicating skills through my playing. I also learnt the importance of blending the sound of my instrument alongside with the other instruments in order to create unanimous music as a group.
While rehearsing, the number of changes we needed to make to the original music surprised us. Some of the changes we needed to make include dividing the original score into different parts and changing up some chords. Eventually, these changes helped make our synchronization more fluid and euphonious.
Our ensemble looks forward to performing on Emma Artist Day and other future recitals.