Sitting in front of the piano, preparing to practice her favorite instrument and play Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor, op. 23 after a tiring day, Emma Fu ’21 looked to the piano as a form of capturing her emotions and “balancing herself mentally.” Through playing each intricate and dramatic detail composed by Chopin, Fu was able to face many of her own emotions and found her voice in the piano.
“The Chopin Ballade is a very expressive piece. It has happy moments and also other sad, more dramatic moments. That was the perfect piece for me to get my emotions out there… I was so upset with everything but being able to hit something or get out my emotions like that was really satisfying,” said Fu.
Fu’s first foray into the world of music was through singing. She only picked up the piano later at age five to accompany her singing, and initially thought of the instrument as “just pushing 88 different buttons.” However, Fu realized that the piano was more than just pressing keys and stated that the instrument transformed into an emotional outlet for her. Playing the piano allowed her to not only experience new emotions but also express her own, something intrinsically powerful that, according to Fu, still attracts her to the piano to this day.
“Being able to play the piano and express myself through that language reminds me of the fact that human’s most basic animal instinct is to convey your messages or to communicate through emotion. I think that’s one of the most important reasons why the piano is so special,” said Fu.
Since arriving at Andover as a new Lower, Fu has been a part of Andover Lawrence Strings, Andover’s Chamber Group Society, and she also co-founded the Phillips Academy Music Association. In particular, Fu emphasized how playing piano in chamber music groups gave her a different and new perspective on the instrument.
“Piano is so stereotypically a solo instrument. You play by yourself, you play it for yourself. But, suddenly in chamber music, it becomes part of an ensemble. You’re listening less to yourself and more to your group members and blending with them and bringing out their best qualities as well,” said Fu.
Fu’s passion and connection with her music is conveyed through her performances and felt by the audience, according to Lexie Mariano ’21, a pianist and Fu’s friend. Mariano believes Fu’s ability to throw herself into the music and express herself inspires her own piano playing.
“She brings her own unique experiences and her own emotions to the piece,” said Mariano. “You can tell she’s really passionate about it and that she really feels what she’s putting into the piano… She just connects with the music really well.”
Although Fu does not plan to pursue a career as a pianist, Fu sees piano as something she will not easily, or ever, forget. No matter what Fu ends up doing in the future, she is confident that she will continue playing the piano.
“It’s really become a lifelong partner, and even if I tried to forget about it, there’s no way I could stop playing forever. Even if I try to major in something else, and I may not as easily access a piano in college, whenever I go home, I still have my one-hundred year-old Steinway piano with its ivory keys,” said Fu.