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Monday November 1, 2010

Striking the right keys to success

INTERNATIONALLY-acclaimed Malaysian pianist Foo Mei Yi is a shining example of what one can achieve with lots of hard work and sheer dedication towards a chosen career path.

For the native of Seremban, Negri Sembilan, it all started at the age of four when she took up music lessons.

At six, she stumbled upon a piano at her grandparents’ home and out of curiosity, began to play it.

She cited her parents as a supportive, but never forceful, influence that helped her talents blossom, never expecting the meteoric rise that was to ensue.

“Initially they were doubtful, for it isn’t common for one to be a professional pianist. But once they saw my interest and passion, they knew there was no stopping me,” said Foo, who currently lives in London.

After receiving her early education at SRJK(C) Pei Hua and SMK Chan Wa, she furthered her musical studies at the Wells Cathedral School, and then the Royal College and Royal Academy of Music in England.

She is currently one of only two Malaysian laureates in the World Federation of International Music Competitions, and the only instrumentalist.

Today, she performs in about 40 concerts annually all over the world.

When asked on her secret of success, she put it simply: “Just keep going and keep doing what you love. Be individualistic and find your own voice in making music.”

Foo was in Penang recently as part of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s (MPO) Chamber Tour, which featured three performances at Suffolk House, the Town Hall and Wawasan Open University.

Speaking to The Star after the first event at the former residence of Penang founder Captain Francis Light, Foo said it was good to be back in a place with lots of familiar and friendly faces, where everyone seemed so happy.

Though the tour’s young resident artist did not perform on the night, she felt it was great to see chamber music rising to the fore again locally, as it was important for the continued development of the local music scene.

Despite finding an improvement in the standards, she hoped the relevant authorities would keep supporting the arts and encourage an appreciation for music.

In between time, Foo also teaches master classes to young musical prodigies, and finds it gratifying to be able to share her knowledge.

The intimate performance at Suffolk House featured Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Grieg’s Holberg Suite.

Penangites finally got a glimpse of Foo’s talents when she performed Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.1 in C and Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E Flat Major the following nights.