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MUSIC IS A FRIEND FOR LIFE
Photo provided . words Nick Gurovic
Published December 2021 / January 2022 . 4MBS Classic FM
When I was arranging to meet Jeni Wang, I thought I was going to write a story about a clarinet player. Our one-hour chat offered more than sufficient insight into a career of a passionate music lover who cultivates that passion by creating opportunities for children to explore music and keep it as a friend for life. A few months ago, when Musica Viva announced winners of the Strike the Chord 2021 competition Wang and five members of the JPMS Ensemble Spirito percussionists had all reasons to celebrate their award. It was also a precious acknowledgment for 15 years of dedicated work of J Percussion Music School (JPMS) tutors and Wang who as a director is the driving force of the school’s many projects. “We started in 2006 with 10 students and grew steadily. Today we employ twelve teachers and have more than 400 students from the age of three years, to university aged students,” Jeni explains, her voice soft, her attire elegant and music passion evident. Her life story fits the cliche about a family who is ready to move mountains to fulfill its mission for the arts. Born in Taiwan, Jeni came to Australia when she was six following the footsteps of her older sister, a talented clarinet player and pianist eager to study at the Queensland Conservatorium through her scholarship.
“My family has always been invested in the arts industry. I played the clarinet and while I am not as talented as my sister who obtained her master’s degree in performance; I was more interested in teaching and music pedagogy and I completed my degree in education.” Since JPMS was founded, we have worked tirelessly to fine tune and polish our teaching curriculum and culture through various stages to reach the point where our students not only love their percussion music, but choose music as their vocation; even finishing their music studies to return to us to teach the next generation of musically inclined children,” Wang says and answering my question about the choice of the instruments adds, “Music doesn’t have to be an individual endeavour; sharing music can be very rewarding helping children to develop and build confidence. Music development can help with communication skills and improve dialogue within the family. While performing in a group, the pressure of performance is a shared understanding and responsibility, hence our musicians create lifelong friendships. We usually hold many live performances, however due to the pandemic we presented live broadcasts to Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth last year. In 2021 for the Musica Viva competition, we provided video submissions. This was not an easy task, as we always aim for perfection in our performances. With live performance you have only one shot,” Jeni says and smiles. While on a mission to promote arts, her family would invite musicians from all over the world, to perform concerts in Australia. “On one of these occasions, we invited a group of percussionists from Taiwan who presented two concerts in Brisbane and toured to Sydney and Melbourne. With the success of this experience, we decided to establish JPMS and here we are still at the same address at Sunnybank Hills for over 15 years.”
Commissioning music for percussion is not an easy task, Jeni concedes, but over years she and her colleagues at the school established partnerships with local and overseas
composers who can write for groups of various ages. After months of uncertainties due to the health crisis, Wang hopes that 2022 will be a year of performing arts revival. “The main objective for us at JPMS is to find new performing opportunities for our students – from Eisteddfods, large live venues such as South Bank in Brisbane, to intimate gatherings for family and friends. With each performance, we witness time and time again, the child’s growth in music appreciation and self-confidence. We already have had discussions about possible overseas performances, but at this stage, still too early to publicise as everything depends on situation with COVID.”
When she is not contemplating about JPMS curriculum and future projects, Jeni is a keen mountain climber, and she documents her love for nature with hundreds of photos. “I also enjoy a glass of wine from time to time and am getting quite good at discovering some fine wines from various parts of Australia and New Zealand.”
Amazing performance from our student Yuli, Chloe, Abi, Lachie & Theo today! Congrats taking home 2 grand prizes again this year (Audience Prize & 2nd Prize).
Congratulations to JPMS Ensemble Mosaic competing in the Grand Finals
From 115 enteries across Australia. We are excited to be selected as finalist again this year. JPMS Ensemble Spirito will be performing on 15 August live at Qld Conservatorium.
Last Friday, J Percussion was very proud to see four students – Yuliana Chen, Chloe Christofan, Kerrie Liang and Jennifer Lin – receive their AMusA award with distinction at the annual AMEB Diploma Ceremony. Since a young age, I have always wondered how I would feel when receiving my diploma: Would I feel accomplished? Would I feel qualified? However, upon receiving my award, I realised that I felt oddly renewed, as if I understood that my work was not done. We often associate diplomas with ideas of completion and the end of one’s journey, yet our percussionists have continued to work hard even after finishing their recitals last year. So, I set out to ask my fellow diplomates the big question: What does this diploma mean to you?
Personally, achieving my diploma has always been a significant goal and milestone in my music career. It feels like all of my hard work has paid off, and it is very exciting to see everything come together.
Receiving my diploma was such an exciting and proud moment for me, as it is a recognition of all the hard work I’ve done to get to this point in percussion. It makes me so happy to know that I reached the goal I worked towards and can continue to grow in my playing.
Getting my diploma basically means I’m qualified to do what I love doing, teaching. In terms of my long-term music journey, this diploma serves as a reminder that all those years of practising past dinnertime and getting nagged at has paid off. Basically, I now have physical proof of my 13-year-long milestone and am ready to step into my next journey as a teacher (Big shoutout to Paul by the way for the numerous ‘therapy’ sessions we’ve had and guiding me through occasion periods of hell).
For me, this diploma signifies the start of a new chapter. As I flip over the last page of my basic technical journey, I am eager to leap into new exploration – more specifically, I am excited to discover myself artistically. No longer bound to scales and studies, I can dive headfirst into a world of phrasing and hidden details that aren’t written on the page.
As I begin my new journey, I believe it is important to reflect on the experiences that have brought me to this point today. Music is a very intricate art: it is through the smallest of details our stories come alive through sound. This process, however, is not always so straightforward and has definitely made for some tough days in the practice room (you know, those days when nothing seems to feel quite right). I spoke to Jennifer about how her experience has shaped her musical journey:
Although I am proud of myself for achieving my long-term goal, it must be said that the journey has been a rough one. There were times where I was thrown pieces of music that I did not comprehend and there were times where I physically could not give justice to the piece of music. Other times, it was less of the music itself and more of the toxic, perfectionist mentality I had developed that left me quite exhausted. These invigorating times saw immense personal growth and development that could not be explored at school nor at home, and for that I am grateful for the past 13 years practically living at JPMS.
Like Jennifer, it was from those difficult times, I learned the most about myself. On days that I didn’t feel like showing up, I proved myself wrong and found how just how disciplined I could be. At every competition loss, when I picked myself back up, I found out how just how courageous I could be. It is through those hardships I found validation within myself, not just from the trophies that I was winning – and this self-discovery is what has pushed me to live more boldly. It has prompted me to audition for orchestras, not focussing on whether I got in on not, but that I gave it a go. It has allowed me to create my own universe through music – a place to escape to when the burden of reality becomes too harsh. These are the experiences that I take forth into the next chapter.
So, I guess that leads to the question of the day: Is the diploma a signal of the beginning or the end?
I believe it is both. While it is hard to say goodbye to this chapter of technical growth, I am excited to head into a period of emotional flourish – a personal Renaissance if some sort. Like my fellow diplomates have said, last Friday’s celebration was not only a celebration of how our past efforts have paid off but an induction into a new journey forward. On this journey, I aim to explore my identity as a musician and deliver meaningful stories, and I hope you all will come along for the ride.