Siqian Li on the power of teachers

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Chinese concert pianist Siqian Li reflects on the influence her teachers have had on her life and career.

Throughout history, teachers have always played an indispensable role. They transmit wisdom and knowledge, open doors for those who wish to discover the world and lead them in the right direction. Before people reach a certain level of knowledge or master a specific discipline, they may fear the unknown and feel unable to choose the right path in life. Although no one can guarantee that every choice is absolutely correct, the advice of a good teacher will certainly help to understand the world and oneself. This can save a lot of time as one seeks to find value in one’s own life.

Classical music is a profession to be inherited, and its cultural essence and value has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Thanks to all the great teachers who have gone before us, we are so blessed to have the chance to feel and interpret the music and spirit of these amazing composers in the 21st century, despite hundreds of years having passed .

There is therefore no doubt in the power of classical music teachers. Personally, good teachers have been of utmost importance to me. My teachers not only taught me to master the piano, but they also taught me to be a person of good heart and integrity. In a way, what they taught me had a profound impact on my values. I believe that a good teacher can not only guide students professionally, but also become a role model in their lives. have a positive influence on students at some stage or even throughout their lives. So having good teachers is absolutely crucial and very valuable.

For me, one of those teachers is Professor Huiqiao Bao. I studied piano with Ms. Bao from the age of ten until I graduated from Central Conservatory of Music In Beijing. After 12 years of studying with her, I can say that Ms. Bao has become much more important to me than a teacher is to students. She looks more like my family, friend, model, she knows me even better than my family. Now we are thousands of miles apart, but she continues to follow my career and we always talk about everything. She made me enter the world of professional pianists, and from her I learned the hardships that must be paid in this profession, and the happiness that results from it. When I started competing internationally around the age of ten, she accompanied me to every performance, and if she couldn’t come, I received a card from her with a message, “enjoy the music, my heart is always with you”. It was such a sweet encouragement and provided me with spiritual support. His unconditional love and support for me got me to where I am today. She laid an extremely solid foundation for my piano skills, but more importantly, her qualities as a musician left an indelible impact on my life.

Another teacher who had a profound impact on me was Professor Alexander (Sasha) Korsantia. There is fearless passion in Sasha’s playing, and nothing can stop the spark that erupts from her exquisite and creative music. His musical style is also perfectly reflected in his teaching. From the first lesson I took with him, I was completely overwhelmed and inspired by such passion (I am relatively introverted and shy myself). During my four years of study at New England Conservatory in Boston, Sasha constantly encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, explore the limits of music, and show it all without fear on stage. He is an extremely strict teacher, with high standards for his students, so we have always worked very hard. But in real life, he’s a very good friend who organizes class parties and barbecues for the students as well as conversations with us about life. The time I spent studying with him can perfectly be summed up in the motto “Work hard, play hard”. His charisma as a teacher and artist has always inspired me. I’m also very grateful that he changed me in so many ways, allowing me to carry that fearless power to continue on the path of music.

Finally, I am grateful to my teacher, Professor Norma Fisher. I have been studying with Norma since 2019 when I moved to London to study at royal college of music. Studying with her allowed me to explore the deeper meaning of the musical world – what does music mean to human beings and what does it mean to the world? These are lifelong questions, and the answers will take years to uncover, but Norma unearthed my own curiosity. His teaching goes into great detail, with particular emphasis on understanding the connotation and culture behind the music through the score itself. Therefore, the process of learning with her influenced and inspired me to also think about the deep connection between people and cultures, and it also led to a deeper reflection on music. After all, musicians never study and work in a vacuum – we have to study all aspects of life. Apart from Norma’s curious nature, she is also a sincere and kind teacher who takes care of her students in every way possible. Without his unconditional support, I could not have survived the pandemic mentally nor had the courage to continue on the path of performance.

Mrs. Bao, Sasha and Norma have all given me pearls of wisdom that are close to my heart. They all showed me that only love and faith in music can provide the power to survive dilemmas, and that any struggle an artist goes through will eventually become their treasure. When people are faced with many realistic situations, it is easy to overlook the power of this statement, but the truth is that it can indeed be the most powerful spiritual pillar. My personal experience throughout the pandemic has led me to believe this even more firmly.

To all budding musicians, I suggest seeking the help of a teacher if possible, as it is the most direct way to learn. If you don’t have the right teacher at the moment, learn from books and recordings because you will definitely benefit from them in the long run. Additionally, the internet provides masses of resources that people can search for (although you should filter out unnecessary information). At the same time, I would also suggest that you consult your peers as most of them have experienced the issues you are facing, and perhaps their advice will be the key to changing your situation.

Music is a lifelong journey and it takes musicians a lifetime to learn. If a musician stops learning, his musical career will also end. Young musicians progress under the guidance of their teachers and mentors and these teachers also learn constantly by finding, in the process of teaching students, that new ideas are created. Musicians also need to learn from each other. Each musician has their own musical language and artistic experience, and learning from their peers is always the best way to improve and understand the musical world around them.

Chinese pianist based in London Siqian Li will then perform in a recital at Sussex Garden of St James’s Churchwith a stylistically diverse recital of works by Debussy, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Liszt at 7:30 p.m. to February 26, 2022. Tickets can be found here.

You can learn more about Siqian Li here.

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