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Pauline took up the violin at the age of six. Before fully committed to be a violinist, she believed that science was the path to take, enrolling in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at HKUST and leaving the violin to her leisure time. She went even further, pursuing a part-time Master’s in Environmental Engineering while working as a Research Assistant at HKUST’s Applied Technology Centre. But a tour to Japan to play at a festival while doing her Master’s changed her focus, highlighting the variety and the opportunities such a career could offer.
With her Master’s coming to an end, she applied to study at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA). It was tough transitioning from playing music for pleasure to doing so more seriously. A relentless schedule of practicing scales, working her fingers and attuning her musicianship followed, but it resulted in acceptance into HKAPA’s three-year programme, which would change the course of her life.
Pauline approached music in much the same way as she had approached her study and research assistant work. "It helped me a lot. I knew how to make things systematic and how to communicate with other students. This helped me pick up music, another subject, quickly. And I didn’t waste time practicing because I knew how to do it systematically, for example using a metronome and practicing slowly. It was like doing research, but I enjoyed the music and the sound I was making."
But Pauline still didn’t have a particular path in mind. "I simply wanted to learn how to play properly and advance my technique," she says. Pauline was already teaching violin on the side and she was keen to develop her confidence and share her expanding knowledge with her students.
"It was great exposure and I gained a lot of positive encouragement," says Pauline, so much so that on her return to Hong Kong she decided to apply for further study – a two-year Master’s of Music at the James Madison University in the US. Here she met the second inspirational teacher in her musical journey, Wanchi Huang, who held a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Music from Indiana University. "These two years were the most important in my life because every day it was just practice, practice, practice. In Hong Kong there are so many distractions but here there was nothing to do but learn."
As this study period came to a close, a decision loomed – to study further in the US or return to Hong Kong. Pauline decided on the latter and found a job in a contemporary ensemble. From there many other opportunities arose, and she has gone on to play with orchestras and worked as a soloist in Hong Kong and overseas as well as establishing her own organization, Splendour Music, to create innovative multi-media performances featuring a mix of classical, contemporary and electronic music alongside visual art and dance.
As well as performing, Pauline has been teaching children, including those underprivileged from low-income families in collaboration with the organization Food Angel. "Many of the students haven’t been exposed to music before," says Pauline and she’s been amazed at the positive effect it can have. "These students learn fast and have passion because they know learning music is not easy and it’s expensive but they have this opportunity. I have a passion for teaching and I want to pass on my talent and skills to the next generation."
Passion burns brightly in our alumni and there’s certainly no slowing down for these inspiring performers.
Know more about Pauline's story from HKUST Alumni Magazine - Winter 2020 Issue