Pianist Hilda Huang is currently a graduate student in the Yale School of Music. As an undergraduate, she majored in chemistry at Yale. She was the first prize winner of the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition.
“JMc: What have been the special challenges to your dual careers so far?
HH: Balancing my academic and musical aspirations is an ongoing challenge. I realize that college is supposed to be a time to focus on career, a single pursuit. This has been a time for me to explore and to discover, not to be driven by some notion of a “profession”. Music and science are both important to me. Why shut off part of myself? That would not be any fun at all.
JMc: What are the special challenges/pleasures of attending Yale?
HH: Yale is an environment that is conducive to serious study and reflection, and to production. With the rich tradition of academic excellence, I am privileged to be a student here. On the other side of that, comparing myself with so many other high achievers can easily lead to self doubt and shaky confidence.
JMc: Who are your favorite musicians, composers?
HH: I am mostly drawn to German composers…to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, of course, and to Schumann and Schoenberg. I have recently developed a fondness for the music of Schubert. His sensibility is magical.
JMc: What is your most memorable concert experience?
HH: No one answer comes to mind :(
Playing in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and some of the smaller halls in Germany was fantastic. I remember that we were introduced to Evgeny Kissen’s teacher at the reception after my recital in NYC. The three of us had a very warm connection with her during our chat. I had a memorable lesson with Andras Schiff in Vienna, on the stage of the Musikverein. That felt like a concert experience!
JMc: What do you consider the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring music students.
HH: Music is craft as well as art. The practical aspects of playing need to be well-developed, and yet this is not enough. It is only a means to an expressive end. The performer needs to be in touch with a personal experience, and have a more objective awareness at the same time. I have much to develop on both fronts.
And, it is important to remember that this pursuit is fun! This does not mean that we should be flippant when the music is magisterial or majestic. To me, playing the piano is a very intentional pursuit, but I also value just letting things happen. Why this works (sometimes) is mysterious to me.
JMc: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
HH: To be in harmony with others, and to understand myself…working on right brain, left brain balance. This is not easy to achieve.
JMc: What is your current state of mind?
HH: I am sometimes idiosyncratic. This is exhilarating, as I have a massive number of opportunities and options. This is perhaps the best of problems to have, but I can easily overthink things.