Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio
F E A T U R E
Interview with Stacey Chou
F E A T U R E
Interview with Stacey Chou
Which instruments do you play and do you have a favorite?
I play piano and flute. I also play other instruments in the flute family (piccolo, alto flute, bass flute) and acoustic guitar. My favorite instrument is actually the cello because of its beautiful sound and wide range of colors. I obviously love the piano and flute too! There are so many great piano pieces and flute repertoire out there.
How old were you when you first learned to play an instrument?
When I was two, my dad taught me how to play the violin. But I didn’t start taking formal lessons until I was five, when I started the piano. I started flute and violin private lessons the summer before fourth grade, clarinet in school in fourth grade, had a few years of voice lessons as a kid and in high school, and even had a harp lesson once when I was seven or eight. (I know, what were my parents thinking?) Clarinet I dropped after a year, and I stopped violin when I was about 12.
How often did you practice when you were a kid and how have your practices changed now that you are a professional?
As a kid I practiced pretty often - my parents definitely made me practice every day, and I did a lot of competitions and recitals growing up. Our piano was in the sun room, which always made the room happy and bright, and I enjoyed making up little tunes on the piano. When I got older I liked better the pieces I was working on at that level, and getting involved in activities like band and youth orchestra helped grow my love for classical music, so my internal motivation for practicing started rising. For college and grad school, I went to music conservatories and was practicing a ton every day. Now, I practice less than I did when I was in school because I’m working more. But I try to make each practice session the most productive as I can, such as making a small schedule of what I want to practice at that time instead of trying to practice everything at once and running out of time. I also make sure I take a lot of breaks to keep my attention from wandering.
How did you decide to become a professional musician?
My journey into choosing music as a profession is a long story, which I will be happy to share in person to anyone who is interested! To keep the story as short as I can, I always loved music but was particularly uninterested in doing it as a career because I was interested in a lot of different things. So when I first started applying to colleges my senior year in high school, it wasn’t for music. About halfway through the year I was opening up to the idea of adding music as another major, so when I started college, I was pursuing two degrees. I loved what I was doing music-wise and the experiences I was having with music. So in my junior year of college, I decided to pursue only my music degree, and the rest is history! My interests are continually evolving, so I’m doing different things with music now than I thought I would have been if I had been asked even 5 years ago, but it makes life fun and keeps me growing as a person.
How do you prepare for a performance/audition?
I’ll map out when the event is and when I want to have certain sections of my music under my fingers. I’ll also listen to several recordings of the pieces, review any old notes on them, and maybe take a lesson or two from a previous professor. I record myself practicing to hear how I sound on the outside and I practice performing in front of colleagues to combat nerves. I have a certain routine the week of the event: I do a lot of listening to recordings and mental practicing every day. I make sure I’m eating and sleeping well for at least a few days leading up to the event. I also try not to schedule too many things in the week leading up to it, so that I don’t stress out, but also try to include a few fun things to take my mind off of the pressure, such as going to a museum or hanging out with friends. I pick out the outfit I’m going to wear, pack my music bag, and lay it all out the night before. I’ll eat a couple bananas the day of (potassium helps calm down nerves). Then I just breathe and let it happen as it happens!
What was your most memorable musical performance?
In 10th or 11th grade my high school band played a wind ensemble version of the Finale from the Firebird Suite. We projected the movie Fantasia 2000 and performed live alongside the video. It was really fun and different than anything I had ever done up to then and made me think classical music was so cool.
What do you like most about teaching young musicians?
It’s refreshing to see how young musicians are quite happy to hear and play what adults might consider simple pieces - from “A Day at the Carnival” to Clementi’s Sonatina, I’m reminded that all music is inherently pleasurable.
Who were some of your most inspiring teachers?
All of my teachers were really great, but of course I have a special connection to my professors from college (Vincent Lenti) and grad school (Marco Granados). They were both especially incredible musicians, teachers, mentors, and life coaches. They definitely helped shape me as the musician and person I am today.
Any upcoming performances we should know about?
On Saturday, December 2, I have a holiday concert with my military band in Central Pennsylvania. After that the next performances I have scheduled are in the spring, but there may be something that comes up before then! That happens a lot in the music world - performance opportunities just pop up and you should always be ready to take them!
When you’re not playing, performing, or teaching what do you like to do?
I love hanging out with my friends and doing something active, such as walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, or playing frisbee in the park, or going to a museum. When I’m just relaxing at home I’ll watch my favorite TV shows, like Doctor Who or Friends.
Learn more about Stacey on her Teacher Page.
Flutist, Pianist, and Teaching Artist Stacey Chou has been playing the flute since age 8 and piano since age 5. She earned her Graduate Performance Diploma and Master of Music degree from the Longy School of Music of Bard College under the tutelage of Marco Granados. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree with Distinction from the Eastman School of Music, studying under Vincent Lenti. At Longy, she had teaching assistantships with the Teaching Artist Program and the El Sistema Side-by-Side youth orchestra program. She was also a winner in the annual Longy Honors Competition and was awarded the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching Artistry. Stacey is a founding member of the flute quintet, In Radiance, which performed at the National Flute Conventions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and was a 2017-2018 Fellow in the Global Leaders Program. Stacey currently resides in the Boston, MA area where she teaches piano and flute, performs regularly, leads workshops, is an accompanist at her church, flutist and piccoloist with the Air National Guard Band of the Northeast, and pianist, flutist, singer, and video editor for Urbana Worship.