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The Fellowship in Music Australia (FMusA) is the highest and most prestigious award offered by the AMEB. Relatively few candidates pass the examination, and even musicians working professionally have been unsuccessful, especially on their first attempt. Fourteen-year-old Shuan Hern Lee made history earlier this year when he was awarded the FMusA after an extraordinary recital demonstrating the highest levels of musical understanding, technical mastery and stylistic flare.
We first interviewed Shuan Hern Lee when he was eleven years old. At this point he was a pianist, singer and composer who had achieved incredible success at an early age on stage. After receiving an LMusA in Piano at the age of ten he had gone on to perform around the world with orchestras including the Moscow State symphony orchestra and the Mueller International orchestra as well as recording an album and being written about in news publications worldwide. Now fourteen, Shuan is the youngest person to be awarded an FMusA. He shares with us his experience.
“I decided to complete my FMusA because I thought that there was no harm in trying. My dad, who is my teacher, and I decided on the repertoire for the recital. I used the pieces in competitions to allow me to gain performance experience before the exam so I could feel more confident.
I practiced around 6 hours per day and spent at least 2 or more hours practising the recital pieces but the remaining hours were on other concertos and solo pieces. I practised combining musical thought with technical aspects together during repeated practice. I also spent time paying attention to score details in relation to style, interpretation, dynamic contrasts, phrasing and other issues. Recording myself and running the entire program also helps to organise my thoughts and gain more performance stamina. I also listened to professional pianists' recordings for reference and read about the historical background of the works to gain understanding and to prepare better interpretations.
I am never nervous when performing because I have performed since I was two and a half years old. So I only enjoy it and the more people in the audience, the happier I feel. Sometimes, I perform a few competitions or eisteddfods on the one day or even a couple of concerts in one day. I truly enjoy each experience. I just love to be in the limelight sharing with others the music that I can produce.
At first I did not want to do the Fellowship [in Music Australia] exam because I was afraid of failure. My dad told me that the failure rate is very high for this award. However, after much consideration and encouragement from my parents, I decided to give it a go.
I performed Bach's Prelude and fugue [from the Well-tempered Clavier] Book 1 No 3 [BWV 848]; Beethoven's Sonata Op. 31 No 1; Chopin's Ballade No 2; Liszt's Tarantella; Haydn's Sonata Hob. XVI/50; Debussy's Estampes and Balakirev's Islamey. I assembled the recital by contrasting periods and styles. I wanted to present my technical capabilities and musicianship as a concert pianist. My parents, grandparents and around 30 friends attended the concert. We did not want many people as it might disrupt the examiners.
A Chinese saying says: “failure is indeed the mother of success”. Therefore, since I am still so young there is no harm if I fail after doing my best; I will learn from my mistakes, improve and progress. After all these years of performing and taking part in competitions, I have learnt to accept both failure and success but, most importantly, I learn not to give up in pursuing my dreams! I believe that my musical ability has matured to quite a high standard, but I will continue to work to improve on interpretation, stylistic refinement and to obtain sophistication with my performance.”
Shuan’s teacher and father, Yoon Sen is very proud of his son.
He says that the past twelve years teaching his son have given him great satisfaction while also proving a great challenge. “I have had to take up the double role of being his dad and also as his music teacher. We played a lot of musical games while practising on the piano and that made him understand that practising is fun and the piano is his huge toy. We had great times working together. There are times where we disagree but then find ways to compromise along the way. In imparting these musical skills to him, I also assure him that I love him as his dad and teacher. There are times that I have to discipline him, times to encourage him and reward him. I have taught him to cultivate a love for music throughout the years.”
“Shuan Hern loves to practise, travel around to perform, take part in competitions, watch operas, attend classical music concerts, sing and compose. To many parents and children, they cannot believe it as they think that we must have imposed all these activities on him and forced him to be so involved in music. But the truth is that since he was a three year old, he always wanted to be involved in piano performance and these musical activities, making them his priorities over his academic studies, or sports.”
Shuan recently performed Liszt’s Concerto No 1 with the Metropolitan symphony orchestra on December 4th at Hale School Music Auditorium. You can check his website for updates and upcoming gigs: www.shuanhernlee.com.
AMEB would like to congratulate Shuan on achieving the FMusA and commend him for his efforts.
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