Our May 6th concert, Australian Dreamscape, will feature 15-year-old bassoonist Emily Qiu. Emily already has a very impressive music and performing background. Among numerous awards, she was a first place winner of the Boston Youth Symphony’s (BYSO) Concerto and of the Senior Lapin Competition at the Community Music Center of Boston. This May, she will perform as a soloist with the BYSO. This upcoming June, she will tour Leipzig, Germany with the orchestra, where they will perform at the annual Bachfest.
Before taking up the bassoon, Emily, an honors student at Phillips Academy, played piano for six years, participating in various competitions and performances around Massachusetts. Aside from music, she enjoys writing poetry and studying computer science. Here, with great enthusiasm and sparkling good humor, Emily tells us more about her musical journey.
You’ve played bassoon since you were 11 years old. What drew you to that instrument?
Actually, I didn’t even know about the bassoon until a couple of months before I started playing. One of our family friends has a daughter who plays bassoon, and she introduced it to me when we visited her house. I was like, wow, it looks so heavy! I didn’t know any bassoonists in my town, so it seemed a little intimidating to me. But when I heard her play, I was amazed by the warm, singing sound of the instrument. I thought it was really cool, and I knew I wanted to try it out. Later, I asked my mom if I could start taking lessons, and that’s how it all began! For many people, playing bassoon has a steep learning curve—I’ve definitely encountered a lot of challenges throughout my years of study, especially at the beginning. But overcoming these challenges and creating has brought me so many good memories, and I’m really grateful to have this experience.
You also played piano for six years. Do you still play piano?
Sometimes; I don’t take lessons anymore, but I still like to play occasionally during my free time. We have some pianos in our practice rooms at school, and sometimes I play a little bit when I go to practice bassoon. I think that playing piano has been a crucial part of my musical career, so it would be nice to keep it up! It was the first instrument I played, and it allowed me to foster a more extensive understanding and interpretation of music that I can now apply to my bassoon playing. When I studied piano, I mostly played classical pieces, but nowadays, I play a variety of different kinds of music, from Chopin waltzes to Korean movie soundtracks.
You’ve won first-place awards in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and The Senior Lapin Competition at the Community Music Center of Boston. How did it feel to be so honored as a musician?
It’s honestly somewhat surreal to me! A year ago, I don’t think I could’ve even imagined that I would be where I am today. Both the BYSO and CMCB communities have been instrumental (ha, get it?) to my growth as a music student, and receiving this level of recognition means a lot to me. I spend most of my weekends there, and I’ve learned so much as a result. Participating in rehearsals and workshops is always rewarding, but above all, the people I’ve met are talented, supportive, and truly one-of-a-kind. I’m glad that I’ve been able to impact these communities in a positive way through my music. That being said, I’m grateful for all the support that I’ve received from the people around me, because I couldn’t have done it without them! And a special thank you to Janet [Underhill], my bassoon teacher, who has always pushed me to become a better musician, while encouraging me to believe in myself.
In June, you’ll be playing with the BYSO in Leipzig, Germany. Have you ever travelled to, or played in, Europe before?
I’ve never played in Europe before (this is my first time going on tour), but I have travelled there quite a few times. I’ve been to five countries in Europe, and Germany is one of them. I was a lot younger when I visited, so it’ll definitely be interesting to go back this year. I’m actually studying German in school right now, so this will be a good opportunity for me to practice my speaking skills as well. This year, we’ll be playing at the Bachfest in Leipzig, which is really exciting for me! I anticipate making a lot of good memories during my time there. I hope to be able to continue travelling around Europe in the future. My trips have always been a lot of fun—in particular, I really enjoyed going to Vienna, where I visited the Haus der Musik (which I highly recommend, by the way).
You also write poetry and study computer science. Tell us what especially interests you in these areas.
Recently, I’ve written a lot of poetry; for me, it’s a really good outlet when I want to express my thoughts, and I admire the creative use of language in order to appeal to people’s emotions. I find that one of the most interesting aspects of the poetry-writing process is actually reading poetry. I’ve read a lot of fascinating poems lately, many of which provide a profound, and often relatable, perspective on life. These works really inspire me to write my own poetry, and I draw influence from them to develop my own writing style. A couple of poets whose poems I particularly enjoy are Li-Young Lee and Rupi Kaur. As for computer science, I’ve become quite interested in it lately because I’m taking a computer science course in school. This past year, I’ve explored a little in the field of app development—it’s very challenging, but I hope to be able to learn more about it.
How do you feel about your upcoming performance, playing von Weber’s Concerto for Bassoon, with the Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra?
I’ve got to say, I’m pretty nervous, since it’ll be my first time performing as a soloist with an orchestra. Even so, I want to just get out there and make music! (Sounds clichéd, but it’s true.) I’m sure that it will be a fun time. This is an amazing opportunity for me, and I would like to make the most of it. I’m really honored to rehearse and perform with such a wonderful group. To everyone in the Waltham Philharmonic, thank you for making this possible, and I look forward to the concert!
We also very much look forward to experiencing this young musician’s outstanding talent! Don’t miss out; join us on May 6th!