About me, briefly:
A London-based music event organiser, pianist, teacher, and scholar, Alvin/ Siu Hei is praised for his extraordinary performance virtuosity and impressive balance in collaborative piano playing (Paul Muller, Sequenza21). Equally at home with Western classical and contemporary music, he appeared as a soloist at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall and Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. He shared the same stage with the late maestro, violinist János Négyesy, collaborated extensively with award-winning vocalist Kirsten Ashley Wiest, and premiered compositions by James Erber, Josh Charney, and other composers. Siu Hei holds a PhD (music) from the University of California San Diego, MM (piano) degree from Eastman, and served as piano faculty at the Lyra Summer Music Festival and Workshop.
Siu Hei taught music courses of all university levels, and served as discussion leader and writing tutor at the Revelle College “Humanities” writing program. He also spearheaded the Intercultural Music Conference and Concerts at UC San Diego, presenting 80 musicians and scholars from 18 countries. As a musicologist, he presented papers at the International Musicological Society Congress and the Society for Ethnomusicology annual meeting.
He also plays soccer/football and basketball, and enjoys craft beer and home-made pizza.
I'm interested in how music touches you and me.
The halo of fame, talent, and beauty makes music attractive; but what else conditions music making and listening?
The economy, social class, gender, race, disability, governmental and national politics, and many others… they form the map of my journey as a pianist, musicologist, and teacher.
I am in a journey of collecting and telling stories.
In February 2016, I curated and coordinated the Intercultural Music (IcM) Conference and Concerts at UC San Diego. The IcM involved 80 musicians and scholars from 18 countries, and was enthusiastically received by global participants and the local media.
In 2017-2018, I presented the “Family, Infant, and Kid-friendly” Recital Series. While professional musicians played classical and contemporary music on stage, kids asked questions to their parents, and infants cried as part of musicking. After the concert, the audience enjoyed their time with bottomless crayons and colouring papers, and also came onto stage to play the grand piano and toy pianos.
Being a Western Classical Music performer and scholar, I am constantly struck by the musical creativity of my hometown. I researched the derivative music scene in Hong Kong and its implications on new forms of political engagement, and then presented a paper on this topic at the National Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Austin, Texas (November, 2015). This paper was later developed into the undergraduate course "Popular Music: Hong Kong Politics and Identities," which also covered independent and mainstream music. I will present an updated version of my research at the International Musicological Society in Tokyo, Japan in March 2017.
My doctoral dissertation reveals conflicting meanings of Pierrot, the European theatrical (commedia dell'arte) character who captured artists' imagination all over Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. He is not only a sad, hysterical, and modernist aesthete as previously known, but also an politically engaged carnival character that provokes religious thoughts, comments on national and international politics, and racial identity.
In the process, I am discovering and playing pantomime music and other pieces that were neglected in the current performative repertoire and academic scholarship. I am also constructing new, yet historically informed understandings of canonic works such as Pierrot Lunaire and Petrushka.
My dissertation advisor is Distinguished Professor of Musicology Jann Pasler.
PERFORMANCE AND PIANO TEACHING
From 2017 to 2018, I served as the staff piano accompanist of the University of California, San Diego. I directed the first ever undergraduate opera production at UCSD (together with Kirsten Ashley Wiest), and accompanied all graduate and undergraduate singers.
In May 2017, I served as opera pianist for Joshua Charney's opera Bula Matari, Breaker of Rocks, which is based on the true historical story of British explorer Henry Stanley and his final expedition through the African Congo into Sudan to rescue a Egyptian appointed governor from Sudanese Islamic freedom fighters. Recently, I also premiered compositions by James Erber and Cory Hibbs. I was honored to have performed with the late maestro, violinist Janos Negyesy, and the award-winning vocalist Kirsten Ashley Wiest. Together with Wiest, we presented John Zorn's jumalattaret, Ligeti's aria from Grand macarbre, amongst many other pieces.
I served as piano, chamber music, and piano accompaniment faculty at the Lyra Music Festival and Workshop from 2011-2015, and appeared as a soloist at the Hong Kong Cultural Center. After completing my Master's Degree at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York), I moved to San Diego. There, I worked with the San Diego Museum of Art in pairing music with visual arts.
A native of Hong Kong, I have been teaching piano for 12 years. I studied with Barry Snyder at Eastman, Aleck Karis at UC San Diego, and Siu Wan Chair Fang, Amelia Chan, Philip Yue, and Winnie Cheng in Hong Kong. During my own undergraduate years, I curated a fund-raising recital for Orbis, an international humanitarian organisation for eye care, and performed as the piano soloist in the concert. That remained as one of my best musical experience.
As an ESL (English as a Second Language) speaker and writer, I specialize in helping ESL students adapt to the demands of American college in writing and speaking. I served as teaching assistant at the Revelle College "Humanities" writing program. The interdisciplinary program focuses on the "great books" of Western literature form Ancient Greece to the present, and the cultures in which the books were created. In 2016, I led special discussion sections of the Humanities program for students with needs in basic writing. My students in these sections were minorities and international students of Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African American backgrounds.
I also edited professional papers and college application writings. For the latter, one of my clients received admission to UC Berkeley. Feel free to contact me for more info.
I use Headspace daily to train my mind for focus and reflections, and keep a blog that is shared among friends. If you feel stressed, try Headspace!
Q: What's the future of classical music?
A: Classical musicians will play more frequently outside concert halls and even in unexpected spaces. You'll see more musicians of different ethnicities and hear composers of different genders. Even for formal concerts, the mantra of silence will be challenged for greater accessibility by families and disabled persons.
The word "classical," which commonly denotes the highest achievements of a given culture, will lose its meaning (or in fancier terms, "become an empty signifier"). Good and bad classical music will be treated truly on par with - not better than - good and bad hip-hop, mainstream pop, and other genres. Classical music will only thrive with inclusivity and diversity.
Q: What's your most memorable musical experience?
A: Gees, that's tough. Teaching at Lyra Summer Music Festival and Workshop is definitely one of them. Studying at Eastman is another transformative phase of my life.
If I have to choose one *moment*, I'll go with a chamber music coaching by Janos Negyesy for me and four young musicians (Sofia, Carolyn, Andy, and Melissa). We were running through the first movement of Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor, and when I played the last chord, it was so haunting... we all just couldn't help but quietly murmured "wuoooooooooh..." That moment of musical satisfaction, that common appreciation of beauty among musician-friends... I won't exchange that for anything (thank you, friends!)