WEIMAR, GERMANY ― The Violin Channel recently caught up with 19 year old violinist Angela Sin Ying Chan – who was last week awarded 1st prize in the 18 to 20 years old category at the 2016 8th Louis Spohr International Violin Competition, in Weimar, Germany.
In a VC-exclusive blog, Angela talks us through her experience at this year’s competition – and how her approach and preparation for competitions has begun to change over time.
“About a month before the competition, I was crying to my best friends, saying that I didn’t want to go to the competition because I really hated the concept of competing. Every musician is special and unique, how could you pick the “best” one? I also felt like I wasn’t mentally ready for it. I remember my friends saying:” Well, just treat it as a vacation! You have the privilege to travel alone to a city that you’ve never been to, and on top of that, you’ll have a chance to share your music and express your voice!” I am so thankful that I decided to go to this competition not because of the good results, but because of how much I have learned about my playing and myself.
I have always been an extremely self-conscious person. I have never felt completely confident when I play. I feel like people around me all have better technique, sound, ideas, etc. In the preparation for the Spohr competition, I worked super hard on my confidence. For example, when I practiced a hard passage or a hard shift, I would be practicing it while keep telling myself that “I could totally nail it” in my mind. I found that the more I do that, the less pressured I’d feel when I get to the certain passage or shift, and even if I do miss it, I wouldn’t feel like I completely failed. I have also asked a lot of my colleagues about how to boost confidence. A lot of them said ‘fake it until you make it’ which I totally agree with, while my favorite response was: “The audiences and the judges wouldn’t know what you’re thinking in your head, so they wouldn’t have any clue on what you think you should sound like. So the best way to be more confident (on stage) is to accept how you sound at the moment. You know that there is always something that could sound better, but you should feel happy about the hard work you have put in.”
It was my also first time playing a concerto with an orchestra. I was super nervous at first because I was very inexperienced, but then I realized that playing a concerto with an orchestra is actually the same as playing chamber music. I have always enjoyed playing chamber music more than playing solo music, mostly because I love the connection I get with people in chamber music. I learned that the only difference between playing chamber music and playing with an orchestra is that when you’re playing with an orchestra, you’re working and communicating with a much larger group of people (plus a conductor), but you still get a very strong connection with everyone and the music.
In my humble opinion, competitions are just a tool for self-exploration and for one to be motivated and inspired. I got lucky that the judges appreciated my playing and picked me as the “winner”. I did not expect to win, not that I don’t think I deserved it, but I strongly believe that other competitors’ playing are all very unique and profound. It only depends on what the judges like. Everyone has different tastes.
I felt very lucky that I had a chance to enjoy my moments on stage and express my music in Weimar. I am still very unconfident, but I have learned to accept my imperfection and be grateful to have that quality to keep inspiring and motivating me to work harder. My next steps would be to keep learning how to be a better person/musician, to keep doing what I love, to be inspired by music, and to enjoy life.