Town of Music at the Alps
“Green meadows, skies full of stars, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens…” I think you know where I am heading, the Alps. Schlern (Sciliar in Italian), even though not Salzburg Austria but of South Tyrol in Italy, has really become one my favorite things, or shall I say, places.
The first morning in Schlern, I searched through a narrow paved path under a stone arch and discovered a hiking trail. It Ied into a clearing, and it was the most beautiful clearing I had ever seen! It turned into meadows leading towards the far mountains. Joyfully, I found myself knee-deep in wild flowers, butterflies, and bumblebees. I wondered if I was dreaming.
“The hills are alive with the sound of music.
With songs they’ve sung for a thousand years.
The hills fill my heart with my sound of music.
My heart want to sing every song that it hears.
My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds
That rise from the lake to the tree.
My heart wants to sigh like the chimes
That fly from a church on a breath.
To laugh like a brook that trips and
Falls over stones on its way.
To sing through the night like a lark
Who is learning to pray..."
Good morning, Schlern, I come to you for music and my heart will be blessed with the sound of music! I opened my heart to sing this favorite song, with my arms open wide, just like how Maria did in “the Sound of Music,” my favorite musical. I can turn a full circle, see mountains, the entire time, with fluffy white clouds, and green meadows. Up here in the Alps, there is often a thunderstorm that last ten minutes in a summer afternoon. It clears the sky so that it is full of stars when the Sun sets and on every rose there are several raindrops.
This really was Fantasyland! Small, colorful houses lined the side of the Alps, which, otherwise, was covered in wild flowers, and bushes, and trees. The Sun was rising—it was peaking up above the mountains. Behind us was a farm surrounded by fruit trees. I kept pinching myself to see if I was dreaming!
Schlern, a beautiful and majestic town in the Alps, will be soon filled with music of piano, violin, and cello. Where else could be a better place to fill the air with Bach, Chopin, Schumman, Brams, and Ravel?
Growing up, I was surrounded by all kinds of arts in our family: from piano to painting, from singing to ballet. My mom is an amateur church musician who learned violin as a kid, plays the piano, sings, and conducts. She brought all kinds of music into my eager ears. It was my grandmother, a professional dancer, who took me to my first ballet lesson and her dance rehearsals. She also had a ballet bar installed in my playroom when I was only four. I still remember those beautiful summer days I spent with my aunt in a nearby park sketching, while she set up her easel and artfully swiped her oil-paint-covered brush perfectly down the white canvas.
All these arts opened my eyes, but there was only one of them that really touched my heart, and that was music. At age 3, I was able to sing most of the songs from The Sound of Music and dreamed of one day living in a house with staircases to act out the farewell scene at the party scene. I was speechless the first time I heard my mother's friend aunty Bin Huang 黄滨, the famous violinist, rehearsing for church event at my home. In the night I spent at aunty Huang's concert at Lincoln Center with a big flower bouquet, I told myself I want to be one day on that gorgeous stage.
My dream became even closer when a new piano was brought into my home when I was three. Inspired by my mother's practice, I started to clamber onto the piano bench and search for melodies I knew of on the mysterious keys. I curiously searched the Cs in different octaves. I taught myself Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Mary Had a Little Lamb. I listened intently, trying to learn more melodies or make up my own. I watched DVDs in amazement as concert pianists made their fingers fly across the ivory keys and developed many different colorful sounds. I thought to myself: Those fingers are magical! I want to be like that!
You have all heard my piano playing-right? Have you ever taken it seriously to know what really happens? I think you should know because there is a reason that I play piano and like it. Maybe this will help you understand.
Music is so important to me in my life. It means so much to me even if I started loving it 5 years ago. Music came to me when I was only a chubby three years old. I was always singing when I had nothing to do, when I was scared, and when I was just having fun. My favorite thing to do was to pretend to be a professional pianist or conductor. My other favorite thing to do was to dance around and sing when my mother was practicing. Every single song I heard was downloaded into my head. The Sound Of Music was the practically the only show I watched. I dreamed of a big house where I could perform on the staircase. I would practice to be performing in our apartment. When I was 3 and three-quarters, I was inspired by my mom to start piano. I held this thought in my mind until it was my 4th birthday.
I decided to ask my mom then, and of course, she said “later, honey” so I waited … and waited. We waited long enough for us to move to my dream house. At least I could pretend to act out the Sound of Music. Every time I did, though, I would think of being a prodigy playing in a big concert hall. Finally my mom taught me how to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. This lasted for one or two months, but by then, it still wasn’t enough. I begged and begged but like before, my mom said no. Suddenly, on a bright September day, in the year 2005, when I was 4 and ¾, my mom took me to a piano teacher to try-out.
Meet the conductor
I felt a lunge of panic as I stepped into the rehearsal room. People who came filing out smiled at me because they knew in a week, I’d be performing with them. They were all professional players in the orchestra. I felt even more nervous when I spotted the conductor, the chief conductor of Shanghai Opera House, who was one of the most famous conductors in China. His name was Cao Ding 曹丁. When he saw me, he smiled a very warm smile which almost made me relax. ALMOST.
“Let’s start with me hearing you play.” The conductor said. I sat down on the piano bench and started to play. As my fingers and music started to flow, and my heart flew with it. Before I knew it, I was done. I realized that he was gazing at me the whole 30 minutes while I was playing my piano concerto. Our smiles met. After a few seconds, my mom broke our smile and asked “So should she make any changes?” Startled, he said “Oh, what? Oh not really. I think she’s really good. Just a few things here and there…” He pointed at my music “And it will be perfect.” Closing his eyes he said “When I close my eyes, it doesn’t sound like a 9 yr old playing.” We thanked him gratefully and left.
As I was leaving the building, I thought to myself, the start of my adventure has just begun!
The First Rehearsal
Now I was used to the location, and had a faint idea of the whole setting. I sat down on the side and waited impatiently. Then, my conductor came over to me and told us about the preparation of all the rehearsals and performance. Out of nowhere, the first violin called that the first rehearsal would begin.