Emily and Christy Wu are sisters in their second year of the Conservatory and students of Fabio Bidini.
This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
Let’s go back to the beginning when you first were introduced to music. Would you share that background or experience?
Emily: We started around four, and both my parents really loved music. Actually, my whole family loves classical music, and I think it was the only type of music we listened to on the radio when we were younger. We grew up learning a lot of instruments. We started with violin and then piano a year later. I think it was when we were seven, we auditioned for the music program at our elementary school. We selected piano as our major, and we both got in. At the time, we were required to choose another instrument as our minor so that we could participate in the school orchestra. I think Christy chose viola and I chose flute. Because my parents really want everything to be fair with us, I also learned a little bit of viola. Christy also learned a little bit of the flute. Later when we auditioned for the music program in our middle school, we changed our minor to violin, and we have been playing both instruments ever since.
Do you have a favorite of the two instruments?
Emily/Christy: Definitely piano.
And when or how did you become aware of the Colburn school?
Christy: The Colburn faculty came to Taiwan for an audition when we were 13, I think about 2017. We auditioned at that time and played for the live audition. So that’s when we met the faculty and how we first heard about Colburn.
What was your audition experience like at that time?
Christy: It was our first time doing a live audition playing the full length of the repertoire. So that’s kind of scary but exciting at the same time. We heard about admission to the Music Academy a month and a half later.
You’re in your second year at the Conservatory. Thinking back, how different was your first-year Conservatory experience from your time in the Music Academy?
Christy: I think when I first came to the Conservatory I was kind of surprised because I knew Colburn had a small student body, but I wasn’t expecting that small of a student [to teacher ratio]. It was only four or five people in our class, so we were really close with everyone.
Emily: And I think Performance Forum is what’s really different from the Music Academy because in MAYAP [(Music Academy Young Artist Performance)] there used to be only about one-fourth of the audience, but in Forum there’s always a full audience. And knowing that all your colleagues and faculty are there can sometimes be nerve-wracking. But I think it’s inspiring too.
For piano, you are both studying with Fabio Bidini in the Conservatory. During your time in the Music Academy you also studied with Mr. Bidini and Ms. Kim. Have you found that there are differences in the teaching or your experience between the two Colburn units?
Emily: It is pretty much the same in instruction with Mr. Bidini. We do have more lessons and time with Mr. Bidini in the Conservatory though.
As sisters and both pianists, do you engage in giving one another feedback or do you avoid doing so?
Emily: We used to not talk to each other. Not until this semester. I would ask her to come to my practice room and listen and give me advice.
Christy: But before this semester, we didn’t interfere with each other. I think she takes critiques better than me because last year when we were doing piano duo, I usually would get very mad when she told me to do something.
Do you play any duets?
Christy: We do. We performed the piano duo in last year’s Performance Forum. We also did a piano duo concert in Taiwan last summer. The program was all Rachmaninoff.
How did you get the opportunity to perform in Taiwan last summer?
Christy: You have to send recordings to the National Concert Hall concert, and then if the recordings get approved you can perform there.
In reference to Taiwan, are you international students?
Christy: We were born in Los Angeles, but we grew up in Taiwan. We came back when we were 14 to attend the Music Academy.
Given your former music training in Taiwan and that you’ve had here at Colburn, are there any major or key differences?
Christy: When I was in Taiwan, when I played music, I was focusing on how I do different phrases, just the musical things. But when I came to LA, I started focusing on not only my playing but also the background of music.
Was it the same for you, Emily?
Yes, I think in America it led us to think more openly, not just playing but also enjoying our own music.
Having been students in the Music Academy and now the Conservatory, do you have any tips or advice for someone interested in Colburn?
Emily: Just take in as much as you can during the years you’re at Colburn, and try to enjoy every interaction you have with your colleagues and your teachers; get to know as much as you can.
Christy: Take every opportunity that you have.
Now in your second Conservatory year, what’s one of your most memorable moments?
Emily: I think it’s when we got the acceptance letter from the Conservatory. We didn’t expect to get in because it’s so hard to get in the Conservatory. And also because there were two of us applying, and we knew that there were other colleagues applying too. We didn’t think that it was possible, so we were really happy when we got the acceptance letter.
Christy: I think one memorable experience would be playing with the Colburn Orchestra. Yes, it was my first time playing, well not my first time playing in an orchestra, but my first time playing piano in an orchestra. It was new for me, and I think it was really fun working with such well-known conductors such as Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
Do you find that you like it more or less playing with a larger group such as in an orchestra?
Emily: I played in a Recovered Voices performance. I also performed in the gala concert last semester. Both were great experiences. I think I enjoy playing in both [scenarios] because they’re really different. For Recovered Voices, it was a smaller chamber group and for the gala concert, it was a big orchestra.
And Christy, how about for you? Is there any difference between the two experiences?
Christy: When you’re playing in an orchestra, the rhythms and everything are really strict. There are so many people in an orchestra you can’t change anything. But in chamber, you can talk to your colleagues about where you want to slow it down or what we can do differently in every piece.
With the fall semester coming to an end, is there anything you’re each looking forward to in the spring?
Christy: Right now we’re thinking of competitions. Before competitions, we need a wide repertoire, so we’re building up on the repertoire list.
Does music have a place in your future?
Emily: We both want to be teachers and also performers.
In mentioning teaching, do you want to teach private lessons or work at a school?
Christy: We applied for the Jumpstart program in the Conservatory this year, and we think that teaching is so inspiring. Especially in how we reflect on our own playing when we’re teaching students.
What is one thing that you hope to experience before you leave Colburn?
Emily: Playing with the Colburn Orchestra would be one of our goals. We might apply to the Concerto Competition next year.