Ask Aureus • Piano • Teacher Feature • Violin

December 2021

Chat with Our Teachers: Alicia and Sem

We have many talented teachers at Aureus Academy who are artists in their own right and are highly-qualified, such as Teachers Alicia and Sem from Nex, who have graduated from prestigious conservatories like the Royal College of Music, London and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore respectively. We caught up with them recently to talk about their stunning piano and violin duet of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 17 (arrangement by Kreisler), as well as to find out more about their journeys as musicians and tips that they have for aspiring young musicians who are currently taking or looking to take music lessons!

How did your musical journey begin?
Alicia: I come from a musical family, so naturally I was interested and inspired to dive into the world of music and was very fortunate to have been able to explore playing different instruments through music lessons.

Sem: For me, my journey with music started when my dad sent me to a music school that is quite similar to Aureus Academy for music lessons.

How did you choose to major in the instrument you are playing?
Alicia: I’ve always loved and focused more on playing the piano, and on top of that, it is my favourite instrument. Therefore it was a simple decision for me to major in Piano Performance at the conservatory.

Sem: My decision to major in the violin was actually spurred by childish curiosity! My journey with the violin all started because my parents always had a small violin at home, so naturally I was curious about the instrument and picked it up from a young age.

What do you like about the instrument(s) you play?
Alicia: To be honest, I love everything about all the instruments I play!

Sem: Well for me, I really appreciate the portability of the violin. Although the violin is hard to play, it is easy to carry home, which means I get to practice a lot!

Both of you started learning the instrument at a young age. How did you juggle that with your studies?
Alicia: Fortunately for me, I attended schools that focused very much on music throughout my childhood, so all my time could be spent on playing the piano alone.

Sem: My mom was the one who helped me when I was younger to manage my time between school work and playing the violin. Eventually, as I grew older, the habit of good time management stayed with me and I had no problems juggling between them and even more things on my plate.

What are some of the challenges you face as a musician?
Alicia: The greatest challenge and drawback any musician can face would be to suffer from an injury because that would mean having to pause all practices and performances, which could be detrimental to any progress that has been made by the musician.

Sem: One big challenge that I face is to find the motivation to practice a piece that I will need to perform but may not be something that I enjoy playing the most, but then again, there will be times in your career as a musician when you’ve just got to get things done!

What is your practice routine like? Do you have any practice tips for students?
Alicia: Back in school, my routine would be 5+ hours of practice per day. I think the only tip I have is to stay focused on doing the things you love and to keep practicing until you’ve mastered something.

Sem: I practice whenever I have time or when I desire to. For my students, I would encourage them to do the same – you can slot in practice time into any part of your day, like before going out with friends, or when you just suddenly have nothing to do! I believe it is better to practice more often at a young age and use any chance you can get to practice.

Do you have a favourite composer? Why do you look up to them or enjoy their works?
Alicia: J.S. Bach would be my favourite composer of all time. I think you will grow to appreciate all of his works when you understand his mindset, which is absolutely mind blowing for me.

Sem: I would say it’s Brahms for me. He never wrote music with the intention of following or appeasing the crowd. I really enjoy his symphonic pieces and violin concertos.

If you had the time and opportunity, is there another instrument you would like to pick up?
Alicia: For me, my main focus is on the piano, but when I have the time, it’s always a pleasure to play the cello from time to time.

Sem: Oh, I would definitely be interested to try playing the cello someday as well.

Why did you choose to perform Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 17 together?
Alicia: It is a very interesting piece! The Hungarian Dance suite contains 21 pieces in total, and each of them has a different approach in terms of emotions. No. 17 in particular, starts with a very heavy mood but ends on a cheerful note, which we thought would be very interesting to perform.

Sem: Yes, the Hungarian Dance, especially No. 17, represents the freedom of feelings and actions which we lack in the current world situation with the ongoing pandemic. So, it also seemed rather fitting for the circumstances we live in now.

You can watch Teacher Alicia and Sem’s full performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 17 , arranged by Kreisler for the violin, along with many other performances put up by our talented teachers and students on Aureus Academy’s Youtube channel!

Is performing on stage a musical dream of yours? At Aureus Academy, Singapore’s leading music school, all of our students are guaranteed performance opportunities! Find out more about music lessons at Aureus by reaching out to our programme specialists at 3158 5811 or Book a Free Trial Lesson with us now!

Alex Sarabi