My Life Story
Many, many people are interested in my story. I have had a dramatic life since I was 2 1/2 years old. When I am alone I can replay videos of my life in my head and I don’t feel bored. Due to my busy schedule I will post some stories that I published on social media, and when I have time I will try to post new ones. I hope my story can inspire students. In the future you can learn more from my biography.
After my mother made a big effort to convince my father and the piano teacher to let me study, I finally took my first piano lesson. A few days later, a tragedy happened. It was very difficult for my father to take advice from his 7-year-old daughter to avoid tragedy. My mother was in the hospital in a coma for a long period. Many doctors examined her and just shook their heads, thinking there was no hope.
Every day I prayed twice at a shrine on the way to and from school. I said to God, If my mother dies, I will lose my mother and my piano, and I will also end my life. So I begged God and offered my final method to save my mother if necessary.
At school I often hid in the corner and cried, and my teacher noticed. I appreciate that she gave me mental support in that rough period.
After more than a month, my mother finally returned home, and she hadn’t lost any of her abilities. The only thing she lost was her bad temper.
Finally I could resume piano lessons at 8 years old.
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Less than 2 months after I resumed piano lessons at 8 years old, my teacher stopped demonstrating new pieces for me, but I knew she still did for other students. After a while, I became upset and mentioned to my mother that maybe she doesn’t like me because she had complained that I’m quiet and never talk, so she doesn’t want to demonstrate pieces for me.
So my mother asked her, and told me my teacher said she stopped demonstrating pieces because I picked up whole pieces immediately at a tempo even faster than hers. She said on the surface that looked good, but she worried that, if I continued that way, at a certain point I might eventually crash because I had not built a solid foundation. So she wanted me to do it on my own . . . . In this way she helped me build a solid foundation that helped me conquer studying on my own throughout the rest of my life.
Many years later at Teachers College, we had only 40 minutes of lessons every 2 weeks. Judging from my level of playing, my teacher, Ms. Kuo, suspected that I must also be studying with an outside teacher. But after searching, she could not find anyone else who was teaching me. She finally asked me directly, and I told her I did not have another teacher. She wasn’t convinced, and kept trying to persuade me to tell her who it was. So I finally said, “Whoever else you think is teaching me, then that’s who it is.”
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After I had studied piano about 7 months, my schoolteacher asked me to accompany my class for a singing competition. My mother asked if I wanted to tell my piano teacher so that she could help prepare and offer me a score that included the accompaniment. I told her that would be unnecessary — I could improvise the accompaniment, and that would save her money. She was happy to hear that, and she agreed. I successfully performed at the singing competition using this method.
A month later, my teacher happened to hear my mother telling other teachers how I accompanied at the singing competition. My piano teacher was furious and scolded my mother, asking her why she had followed my words and didn’t have her prepare me.
At my next lesson, my teacher yelled at me furiously—it was the only time she ever yelled at me, and I almost cried. She told me to show her how I had played the singing piece. I started playing by memory, including my improvisations. Her face changed immediately and she became calm. When I finished, she didn’t make any more comments. She just said, “Let’s move on to the lesson pieces.”
When my mother came home the next day, she told me my teacher urged her to tell me that she was embarrassed that she had scolded me. She was shocked that I could improvise accompaniment so brilliantly, and she said my version was better than the score she had. She asked my mother to apologize to me for her. I have always appreciated her great personality.
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When I was 12-15 years old, Sundays were my nightmare. Every Sunday I had to take a 4-5 hour round trip to the home of my 2nd piano teacher (a tiger). And what did I get? I paid high tuition to get only 40-50 minutes of lesson, which she spent preparing meals, making coffee, reading the newspaper, holding her baby, talking on the phone. I played 10-15 pieces for her each time, and every lesson she told me 1 or 2 words: “good” or “not good.”
In this way, I kept learning new pieces on my own. My mother often asked why there were no marks or words in my scores. Every book looked brand new. If I told my mother the truth, she would want me to quit. (When I was in 4th grade I wanted to quit, and she threatened to hit my piano with a hammer to make me practice.) So I asked her, Do you feel my playing is improving? She said yes. So I said as long as I make progress, you don’t need to worry that I’m wasting your money — don’t ask any more questions. She agreed. But I did feel it was wasting money, so I started canceling more lessons.
At that age, I was very good at math and sometimes even secretly helped my teachers to answer students’ questions. And my math teachers didn’t hate me — they loved me even more. I considered changing my focus to math, but due to my passion for music I decided to continue . . . .
I finally left that tiger teacher (at 15 years old) when I chose Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 as an audition piece for Teachers College — she was strongly against it because she said it was for college-level students. After I quit with her, I studied on my own and won a top competition prize and got the top 1 grade in piano to get into Teachers College. Follow your intuition when you know you are right!
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My piano is 127 years old. I got it in 1994 after 40 days and nights of searching. I tried about 1,200 pianos before I finally decided to buy this one.
I had planned to buy a Steinway, so I went to the Steinway factory and tried hundreds of pianos. But I only ended up choosing pianos for a long line of other customers who wanted me to help them find a good piano — all without any commission!
I finally found my piano in a dream. This piano is marvelous and has spirit. It has given me tons of challenges, step by step, to unlock my hidden special power. My dream came true!
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Do clocks listen to Beethoven?
I have always loved Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, “Fate,” so I got the piano transcription and tried to play a little bit. When I finished practicing, I discovered my clock was delayed 5 minutes. Later, when I wanted to adjust the time, I realized it was somehow showing the correct time. Very strange!
One night I had only 5-10 minutes to practice Beethoven’s Fate, so I was watching the clock. Soon I realized that the clock had stopped when I started to play Fate.
I once heard a famous pianist say that he needs to do a lot of show to attract the audience because people do not go to concerts to listen to Beethoven and other classical music. I don’t think that’s true. 26 years ago, I discovered that dogs listen to classical music. That night playing Fate I discovered that clocks also stop to listen to Beethoven!
Mysteries do exist in this world, don’t they?
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Around 2001, the father of one of my good students at a conservatory came to talk to me. He told me that he had suffered a powerful electrical shock at his job that might prevent him from working for one or two years and might even eventually kill him. He said his daughter might have to withdraw from the conservatory.
I immediately invited him into my studio and played the Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 8 for him. At the time I played it at a very fast tempo,12 notes a second. He sat next to me, and after I played it one time his face had turned red. He said he loved it, so I played it for him again.
The next week, his daughter told me that her father had already felt much better the night after I had played the etude for him, and when he went to his appointment with a specialist the next day, the specialist told him that he had already recovered! He returned to work within about one week.
It seems this student had some kind of connection with me. A month after her family moved to Arizona in 1998, I was practicing at home and I saw an image of her and her family all moving back to New Jersey. Later I confirmed it with her, and the day and time matched.
Also, she was the only student at the conservatory who studied with me from my first day teaching there to my last day teaching there. I feel sad that I couldn’t stay in touch with her, as she requested in her final lesson, because a few sour musicians had been calling her and I wanted her to be able to grow up normally.
In human life, sometimes there are limitations on what you can do and say, but you keep those things in your heart. In the world of music, you are free to express all your feelings and all sides of your character!