Hello, I’m Yuanfan and I’m a second year undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music in London. I’ve always loved music and my first musical memory was playing the piano at my friend’s birthday party when I was six years old. My other friends were outside playing football, and I played a few notes and then moved on to Happy Birthday and Mary had a little lamb. I started having lessons after that and wanted to give myself a big challenge … so I skipped Grades 1 to 4 and passed my Grade 5 with Distinction when I was seven. I’ve been very fortunate with the support I’ve received during my musical journey. My headmaster at my local primary school encouraged us to sing and would ask to me to play the piano during school assemblies. My parents have also made huge sacrifices to help support my passion. When I started at the Academy, my family and I moved from the north of England to London and dad now travels to Leeds for work. As I’ve been so lucky with the support I’ve had, it’s really important to me to also give back. I remember going on a tour in Scotland, and spending part of it volunteering for a music workshop at a secondary school in Campbeltown with around 50 schoolchildren. I did a mini-recital for them playing music by Rachmaninov to more recent numbers like Let It Go and Pirates of the Caribbean. I also gave a masterclass providing tips on how to play, interpret and improvise music. It was so inspiring to see their reactions, to hear about their love of music and to help them with my suggestions and give them the benefit of my experiences. It’s always such an amazing feeling when people tell me that they’ve been inspired by the music I’ve played, especially if it’s a piece that I’ve composed. It makes me feel good, because I feel like I’ve made them happy. I really enjoy composing my own music and improvising, and here’s some of my improvisation in action.
Yuanfan’s improvisation is inspired by the four-note ‘whistle’ motif from The Hunger Games films, which feature music by James Newton Howard, also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.