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Joelle Hsu is looking to learn more about confidence in the international LEAD! Orchestra Project

“It’s important to know our strengths and how to use this to stand out. Networking will allow us to create opportunities for ourselves once we enter the workforce.”

Joelle Hsu

Joelle Hsu is a final year viola student at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. On the second week of September, she will be participating in the international LEAD! Orchestra Project in Finland together with over 80 other music students from Singapore, Finland and Switzerland – preparing a concert to three main concert halls in Finland and learning from world class mentors in the process.

Tell us a little bit about your background in music.

I played the violin when I was young and switched to the viola when I was 13. I think I fell in love with the beautiful deep sound of the instrument and became passionate in playing the viola. Growing up I was more introverted and being able to express my feelings through music gave me comfort. I also had the opportunity to play in orchestras and ensembles from quite a young age, and I really enjoyed playing in such a large group of musicians which motivated me to want to continue doing so in the future. I hope to be able to have a performance career, hopefully with a leadership role in orchestra and in chamber music.

What inspires you in the LEAD! project – what do you see might be its best outcome for you in this moment in time?

I was definitely excited by the prospects of travelling together with colleagues from school as we did not have the opportunity to do so for the past two years. I think travelling and working together overseas would really allow us to create special bonds and memories. Also the repertoire we will be performing is really key orchestral repertoire and beautiful pieces, so I am looking forward to exploring these pieces with musical giants Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Alban Gerhardt. I think that networking and getting to know musicians from various conservatories would provide us opportunities to understand different cultures and how this affects our music.

What kind of themes and content are you especially looking forward to when coming to Finland?

I am most looking forward to the workshop about Mental Health Self-Confidence. Many musicians are pressured to always be better and end up practicing for many hours in a day, which ends up becoming obsessive and it’s not really good for our health. There is always a sense of self doubt and worry about what will happen to us in the future so I am looking forward to learning more about how to be more confident as I think that confidence is something that really impacts the way we perform and play so that we are more convincing to listeners. 

Things like networking, contracts and marketing are important for us even now as students. There is so much competition in the music world so it’s important to know our strengths and how to use this to stand out. In addition, networking will allow us to create opportunities for ourselves once we enter the workforce.

Have you played any of the pieces performed here before -how do you approach them?

I have played Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante and I think it is really unique! Unlike a conventional concerto which features mainly the soloist, it is a work that is essentially a small group concerto whereby the role between the soloist and orchestra is more equal. Personally, we have to be more sensitive playing this work because we have to understand when to play an accompaniment role and when to play out when orchestra has melodies. 

How do you see this kind of international cooperation will prepare you for the working life?

I believe that being part of such a musical setting will teach us to step out of our comfort zones and learn to communicate with each other effectively when we are working together. In the music industry, it is common for working environments to be international in the sense that musicians come from different countries, backgrounds and different languages which might affect the way we work and communicate slightly. However, I do not think that it would be difficult to work together because music is the international language that connects us all together! I also believe that all musicians have the common goal of communicating our musical ideas to allow audiences to feel something, which helps us to get through any difficulties we might face during preparations.

As a future music professional, how do you see your role in society in the future? 

I feel that classical music is an effective tool in binding history with our culture today. We are able  understand so much about what was going on various composers’ lives through the way they write their music and I think the role of musicians is to help bring out these emotions through their own playing. In my opinion, this can bring hope and peace to society as we face difficulties.

LEAD! The Orchestra Project is an international project that provides young musicians with coaching and mentorship to develop their leadership, communication skills and industry awareness. The project is led by conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. In 2022, the project is implemented in collaboration with the Swiss Haute école de musique Genève, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music of the National University of Singapore, and the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, culminating in concerts in Helsinki, Lahti and Tampere in September 2022. Working with the best in the world in their own specialties, students gain knowledge and experience to support their artistic identity and career. The Sibelius Academy, Uniarts Helsinki’s participation in this project is supported by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. 

Sounding together

In this blog you can take a look at the international everyday life and hightlights of the ensemble and orchestra playing and singing of the Sibelius Academy’s Department of Classical Music, presented through the eyes of our staff and students. Visit behind the scenes of our orchestras, choirs and chamber music activities.

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