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Preparing for a Music Performance diploma

3 years ago

 

Last year Malaysian pianist Carolyn Lo May Yeeng embarked on an FRSM Music Performance diploma and passed with distinction.

This was a truly fantastic achievement, and so recently we caught up with Carolyn to find out more about her exam experience and how she went about preparing for the diploma.

Carolyn Lo May Yeeng

Tell us a little bit about yourself: your musical experience, training, and current work

Like most people here in Malaysia, I started my music education by taking private lessons. My early teachers include Ms. Tara Subramaniam, Prof. Snezana Panovska, Ms. Pauline Yong Abdullah and Mr. Rickie Oui. After completing my LRSM in Music Performance (Piano) with distinction under the tutelage of Mr. Loo Bang Hean, I went on to obtain my Bachelor of Music degree from University of Newcastle, Australia at UCSI University through a twinning program. Subsequently I was awarded a full graduate assistantship by Miami University, Oxford, Ohio to pursue my Masters degree in Music in the USA under the guidance of Dr. Siok Lian Tan.

Since returning four years ago, I have been lecturing part-time at UCSI University and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). As the Music Consultant of LS Music Sdn Bhd (Yamaha), I conduct teacher training and advancement programmes. Apart from this, I also teach privately at my studio in Cyberjaya.

What made you decide to embark on an FRSM diploma?

Taking the FRSM diploma has always been one of my goals. With ABRSM's prestigious reputation and the FRSM being their highest level diploma, I knew that working towards this would challenge myself to further improve and hone my skills. Not many people have obtained this as yet, thus I knew that achieving this qualification would be most invaluable.

How did you find the experience preparing for the diploma, including the research and recital components? How did you choose a research topic?

The demands are extremely high for this diploma, so I dedicated a lot of time and effort in the preparation. Having a very full work schedule made it even more of a challenge. However, the journey has been most rewarding and I have gained so much from the research and preparation process. Although research resources are limited here, I was able to find resources online, and some from libraries of the local universities. I am also very thankful for my Masters studies which furnished me with the research skills needed.

My research topic was on one of my favourite pieces that was also included in my recital - Busoni's transcription of Bach's Chaconne in D minor. In my written submission, I compared this with Brahms' transcription of the same piece for the left hand only.

The FRSM recital requires a specialist programme. I have always had a keen interest on 20th century repertoire, hence the entire recital consisted of works from that era - Prokofiev's 7th Sonata, Ginastera's Argentinean Dances, Debussy's Feux d'artifice and Grainger's In Dahomey-Cakewalk Smasher. This programme is highly demanding both musically and technically – one has to deal with a wide range of styles, character and technique to convey the music effectively. I had the opportunity to perform some of these pieces in concerts prior to the exam, which was a great help. I was also very lucky and grateful to have benefited from Mr. Rickie Oui's expert guidance and Mr. Loo Bang Hean's constructive feedback throughout my preparation for this recital.

Carolyn Lo May Yeeng

How did you find the exam experience?

There was naturally pressure and stress on the day of the exam but having a warm-up piano, a conducive venue and a good instrument made it less stressful than it could have been. The examiner was extremely friendly and warm, which helped put me at ease.

How do you feel you have benefited from taking an ABRSM diploma?

Along with the high accolades that come with the FRSM qualification, I have learnt a lot and have pushed myself further than I thought I could go. Apart from performing and writing skills, I have also learnt about time management and productivity, practice efficacy and working efficiently under pressure. These skills will certainly help me in any future undertakings.

In addition to that, the research work required of this diploma is also a good training ground should one wish to move on to more specialised research work (for instance a doctoral degree). Comparing the three versions – Bach’s original work, Busoni's transcription and Brahms' arrangement in my written submission – led me to a greater understanding of the work I performed. It is essential to be thoroughly acquainted with the source of the transcription of course, and analysing another composer’s (Brahms') take on the same piece gave me further insight into Busoni's musical ideas and pianism.

Carolyn Lo May Yeeng

What advice would you give to other students who are thinking of taking the FRSM diploma or currently preparing for one?

This diploma requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice and dedication. One must be ready to plan in advance as the exam covers a vast area of knowledge and skills. It does not only include research and performance but also a quick study section and a viva voce session. One needs to read widely on a variety of subjects, not just those confined to your specific instrument or repertoire.

For those who are intending to prepare for a performing diploma, try to find opportunities to perform your recital prior to the exam. This will help build your confidence for a successful performance on the actual day.


Many congratulations to Carolyn on her diploma success! She will also be performing at our annual High Scorers’ Concert in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday 24 January 2016.

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