This is the ninth and final instalment of the Charting Pathways series, where YST graduates look back on their experience at the Conservatory, and give us a peek at their plans for the future.
In this article, Steven Tanus (BMus '18, Piano) shares on his YST experience which was rich with learning, personal growth and supportive community.
Graduation is a significant achievement, and the four years of study present challenges for any student. Yet speaking with Steven Tanus about his YST experience as the Conservatory's first visually-impaired student, he reflects on his journey with a calm, quiet gratitude. Starting his formal piano studies relatively later at the age of 16 and facing a steeper challenge in learning music have not dampened his ambitions of becoming a world-class pianist.
At YST, Steven studied piano under the tutelage of his major teacher Prof Thomas Hecht, Head of Keyboard Studies. Sharing about his piano studies, Steven says, “Before I came to YST, I thought of music only in terms of performing on the stage. But my teachers at YST have helped me to see the relevance of theory and history studies to performance, and develop a deeper perspective on music”. He also shared his appreciation for YST's community of students who “are very supportive of each other in a competitive, yet healthy way”.
Equally, the four years were also a rich learning experience for Dr Hecht. "Having Steven in my piano class was a real boost for me as teacher because my normal teaching concepts were stretched and challenged, as I learned to devise strategies to help his fingers experience and indeed "see” the keyboard better. And Steven was always a key presence in our weekly practice clinics as he could share with us his unique solutions to technical issues."
Steven intends to audition for music schools in Europe and the US to study piano performance. He also has a keen interest in musicology - particularly early music, mid-18th century music, and theological influences on Western music. The Visiting Artist Series at YST has been an important influence in his endeavours. He notes, “At YST we have inspiration after inspiration, such as masterclasses and performances by visiting artists like András Schiff, who can bring a full Bach program to life!”
Steven had the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for a piano festival with support from the YST Conservatory Professional Development Grant. “Attending the lessons and masterclasses at the festival last year allowed me to understand more about the European teaching and performing styles.” He also attended the Asia and Pan-Pacific International Piano Festival by people with disabilities in Tokyo in 2015 and won a silver medal in the Course B section. He says “This festival allowed me to hear performances by other musicians with disabilities. It was an inspiration to know how they overcome particular difficulties”.
At a daily level, Steven expressed gratitude for how the Conservatory supported him in his studies. On his academic classes, Steven shares, “When the teacher showed a music score on the projector, they dictated the specific stylistic markings for me and played audio tracks.” He took his exams through dictation, where the teacher took time to read the exam questions out for him to answer verbally. In addition, the building's facilities were made easy for him to access, with Braille on room doors to help Steven find his way. And he found ready support from his peers, who were happy to help read scores and point out performance markings to help in his musical interpretation.
Truly, Steven’s optimism and zest for life inspires his fellow music students at YST Conservatory to pursue their passions even through adversities and setbacks. We wish him and our Class of 2018 graduates the very best in their future endeavours!
Read the previous Charting Pathways article here, where flute graduate Rachel Ho talks about how she discovered and grew her passion for educating the next generation of musicians, and engaging the communities around her.