As harp students across the country are heading back to school to start their fall semester, we reached out to University of Illinois (U of I) professor Ann Yeung to find out what the back-to-school scene looks like for her and what tips she has for students hoping to make the most of their studies this year. Dr. Yeung enjoys a multi-faceted career that encompasses elite performance, creative artistry, scholarship, teaching excellence, and administrative prowess. She has been teaching at the U of I since 1999, where she was awarded the Campus 2014 Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching. She also served as editor of the World Harp Congress Review from 2002 to 2014, and she performs with flutist Jonathan Keeble as part of the Aletheia Duo.
How many harp majors do you have at the University of Illinois this year?
Six majors (undergraduates & graduates) plus elective students and doctoral candidates.
What kinds of learning opportunities and activities does the harp class have to look forward to this semester?
We are very excited to have one of our own, Sydney Campen, featured in the Ginastera harp concerto on October 20th as one of the School’s concerto competition winners! In addition, the other featured soloists are performing works with harp so it will truly be a special evening with the Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and the Tomasi saxophone concerto. The studio also has a busy slate of ensemble assignments performing well-known orchestral, operatic, choral, and chamber works to new wind symphony music by prominent contemporary composers such as Christopher Theofanidis and Zhou Long. It’s the sesquicentennial of the U of I (150th anniversary), so there is a special commission for choir and band for a tour next spring to Pittsburgh and New York City. We also have our weekly studio class freelance project (one week’s notice for the harpist on call).
What would you say it takes to be successful as a harp student at the U of I?
Curiosity, creativity, discipline, professionalism, receptiveness, resiliency, and some amusement.
What do you do to prepare your students for a music career in the real world, after they graduate?
I emphasize and encourage my students to consider that the real world is “now.” For harpists, there often is no particular doorway that someone passes through in which they transform suddenly from a student to a professional. But in some ways, that means they have always been in “the real world” and are ahead of the curve in many ways. I encourage my students to be citizens and “students of the world,” searching always with interest and curiosity for ways in which their music, activities, and artistry relate to more than just what first appears before them. So, our studio conversations and classes sometimes range from practical matters such as finances, portfolios, networking, harp technology, to more esoteric creative projects and more. For example, they have to talk, present, and share their perspectives each week in studio class, as they would have to engage with the “real world.” Also to have chocolate and tissues on hand for when needed.
What is your favorite part about your job as harp professor?
Inspired and inspiring students.
What are your main sources of inspiration for your teaching?
Past teachers, life experiences, and fearlessness. Learn well, land well, live well.