Hsing-ay Hsu's blog

The Miracle of Breath

I still remember the wonder of discovering my breath for the first time as a college student, after a debilitating over-use injury.  Just noticing the air flow swept my muscle pain away.  I was amazed at how simple it was.  As I slowly returned to the piano, I started to explore how to breath to enhance my phrasing, my accuracy, my artistry.  Nowadays, I teach breathing techniques to all my students, and here are some reasons why I find it so useful:

Using Eye Contact to Practice Total Awareness

We have all seen talented students perform with their eyes glued to their hands, sometimes even being sucked into the keyboard, neck bent over in a contorted curve.  Thanks to the health and wellness movement in music, students and teachers are becoming more attuned to such issues.   The most musical method I have found is to ask students to maintain eye contact with me while they play.

What can you do for the arts in one hour?

Dear CO Colleagues in Higher Ed,
We live in a time when the value of the arts is being constantly challenged. I find myself constantly having to justify what we do.  It's very easy to advocate for the arts, considering the immense amount of research that prove the benefits, but it takes our personal touch, our charisma, our time, to make someone actually pay attention. 

Room for Discomfort

I was driving home with a CU colleague after playing a concert, when the conversation touched on the issue of discomfort.  Nowadays, whenever someone feels slightly uncomfortable or bored, the smart phone is at the ready to distract and relieve.  But when we give into a habit of withdrawing into our own mental gated community, we lose touch with how we fit in.   Those moments of discomfort hold a wealth of information about what is missing, and that realization motivates us to act.  When students stand at the doorway of that lunchroom, having to decide which table to join, they become more

An Opportunity for Engagement

Years ago, I heard an interview with Audrey Hepburn, who credited her discovery to meeting a director who was able to put her at ease at the audition.  It really caught my attention, as I had been yearning to meet someone like that myself.  Why should Hepburn’s experience be so rare in our field?  Well, yesterday at a lesson, I was able to be that someone for somebody else.

MTNA conference & ESSA Advocacy

I just returned from my first presentation at the MTNA annual conference in San Antonio, TX.  It was wonderful to see many old friends, as well as to catch up with Colorado neighbors whom I haven’t seen for awhile.  As Brian Chung remarked in his Gala speech, there was “a tapestry of inspiring performances, insightful teaching, wise mentoring, compassionate caring, and generous giving.”  Communities, like our University of Colorado friends and alum event, came together to rekindle friendships.  Teachers with common values and ideals found kindred spirits across the nation. 

Traits of an Extraordinary Applicant

This week, I have been working on a search committee for a local organization.   Being on the hiring side has made me think about how to make our students more desirable as job applicants.  As I read through the criteria and the applications for this job opening, I think about the many qualities we are looking for that are beyond musicianship.  There is the personal skills requirement.  How will the candidate manage time, complex projects, and stress?  Can he or she collaborate as a team player, follow directions, and accept critique?

The Solitude of Practicing

Growing up, I remember bits of conversations from friends and acquaintances that conveyed sympathy for me…for my assumed loneliness in all those endless hours of practicing in solitude.  Perhaps implying, “Poor Hsing-ay, she sacrifices her childhood for her music.  She sits at that piano and has no life.”  I never knew what to make of it.  Should I play the part of the child prodigy who doesn’t know how to have a life, or how to pursue other interests anyway?  Should I feel embarrassed that I actually look forward to my practicing?

Memorization: Priority or Not?

After a whole semester of working on memorization, the moment of truth - at one's jury - happens so quickly!  Today's generation of music majors have so much more areas of interests than "in our day", and double majors are more common than ever.  Complicated job schedules, science lab assignments, long commutes, conflicting double majors' schedules, and lack of sleep, all threaten to cut down the enjoyment and quality of practice time.  At the same time, faculty face more pressure of competing for their students' focus amongst an ever increasing amount of activities, and in some cases, no a