The School of Music recently held auditions in Taipei, Taiwan in December 2018, its second consecutive year holding auditions there. Yu-Fang Chen, assistant professor of violin performance, administered the auditions and has been working on building a Ball State presence in Taiwan since she started teaching at BSU. In October 2018, Peter Opie, associate professor of cello performance, and Ryan Hourigan, director of the School of Music, visited Taiwan with professor Chen. During their visit, they met with music faculty and administrators at two universities in Taipei, and presented master classes and concerts in Taipei, Taichung, Yun-Lin, and Kaohsiung. We interviewed professor Chen about her time at Ball State and how she started holding auditions in Taiwan.
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in the states?
I’m originally from Taiwan. I came to the United States in 2005 right after receiving my Master’s degree in violin performance from National Taipei University of Arts.
What have been your fondest memories at Ball State so far? How are you adjusting to life in Muncie?
I’m doing very well in terms of adjusting to life in Muncie. I like the simplicity and quietness here in town. It helps me be focused at work and be relaxed when I’m home.
My fondest memories at Ball State include those music-making opportunities and collaborations with my wonderful colleagues and students. One particular instance that stands out is the inaugural concert of the Ball State University Camerata last November. BSU Camerata is a faculty led, conductorless string ensemble. We as faculty co-coached the group, rehearsed intensively, and performed alongside some of our top students. It was a fulfilling and amazing feeling to perform with colleagues and a group of young musicians who truly engaged themselves in making music. It was also encouraging to see how much the students grew in such a short time. I felt really proud of them. It’s moments like these that remind me once again how much I love music and teaching.
I know that you are the liaison for the Taiwan Auditions. How did that begin and what has the process been like? What were some challenges that you faced while trying to coordinate auditions in another country?
The idea of holding a Taiwan audition came to me about a month and a half after I started teaching at Ball State. I truly enjoy where I work and who I work with. Knowing what Ball State offers, I wanted to bring greater visibility to the School of Music as not many people in Taiwan know about us. I proposed the idea first to Dr. Peter Opie, the string area coordinator, and then to Dr. Hourigan, the director of the School of Music. Both of them were very supportive and willing to give it a try. That was how things got started.
Honestly, it was not difficult for me to arrange and/or coordinate an “event” in Taiwan because of my personal and professional connections. However, the biggest challenge was to encourage students to audition for a school they did not know much about or had never even heard of. I remembered sending around 300 personal messages to my former teachers, colleagues, schoolmates, and students to introduce our program at Ball State University and to advertise our first ever remote audition. It was a lot of work. However, knowing that we have reached out to hundreds of faculty and students and successfully recruited talented musicians from that part of the world, all the hard work paid off. I’m thankful for all the support and resources I received at BSU and in Taiwan throughout the process.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
For longer periods of free time, I love to travel, especially to national parks to be close to nature. For shorter breaks and especially when I’m home, I love either playing jigsaw puzzles or watching scary movies. Both activities successfully pull me away from reality and help me forget about all the worries and stresses.
What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a degree in music?
My biggest advice is to love what you are doing and always do your best. I never think it is easy to pursue a degree in music. It takes a lot of time, hard work, courage, and endurance.
We musicians tend to (and have to) spend hours and hours in the practice room ALONE, in order to perfect our craftsmanship and musicianship. Without love and passion, the lengthy and lonely hours of practicing become unbearable, and it is impossible to create anything that would even touch our own hearts.
I truly love what I’m doing now. It is the love and passion toward music and education that keeps me going forward, no matter how tired I am or how difficult things are.