Q&A with Jennifer Yuan

Evie Dwyer-Leech, Tertiary Projects Executive, chatted with Jennifer Yuan, the Auckland Philharmonia 2024 Young Composer in Residence.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am based in central Auckland and grew up here as well. I went to Epsom Girls Grammar before studying a Bachelor of Music in composition at the University of Auckland. I recently graduated at the end of 2023 and am looking forward to beginning my honours in composition in 2024.

What is your earliest musical memory?
This is a hard question! To be honest, I think my earliest musical memory is having music lessons. I don’t come from a musical family but my parents really valued giving their children other opportunities that weren’t necessarily related to the main academic subjects in school. I also struggled a lot with socialising when I was a child and music really helped me with that. I began recorder lessons outside of school when I was five, and proceded to learn piano, clarinet, violin and guitar.

Tell us about your journey when it comes to composing music
Actually, from an early age I was quite a big fan of classical music; I really enjoyed listening and watching large scale orchestral concerts. I loved being able to pinpoint all of the sounds while watching a concert, and that’s actually how I learnt a lot about orchestration before I began composing in year ten music class.
I get a lot of inspiration from ideas that I hear in my head because of internal audiation. I can hear voices and instruments, as well as orchestral, chamber, and solo music in my head. It’s very helpful!

Who are your biggest musical influences?
This is quite hard because I do have a lot of influences! My third piano teacher is probably my first biggest influence. She taught me important concepts like rhythm and musicality in ways that made sense to me. She is also the person who introduced me to orchestral music.
Coming up with my favourite composers is a super, super hard question because each composer is so different! I think I have learnt something from all of them.

Congratulations on finishing your degree! As someone who has just graduated from university, what advice would you give young musicians at the beginning of their music studies?
Something I wish I knew is that you might go through creative block sometimes and it can be a bit difficult. I wish I knew that this is really normal and it’s okay to feel that way – when you’re doing something so constantly, it’s normal to have bad moments. I still haven’t quite figured out how to deal with it, but just trust that eventually you will push through and it’ll be okay.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently and have also started drawing. I’ve been trying to do more stuff outside of music so I can keep my inspiration up!

What are you most looking forward to as the Auckland Philharmonia 2024 Young Composer in Residence?
I’m looking forward to being able to work closely with musicians. In the past I’ve been able to have workshops with professional musicians, but to be able to do so in a rehearsal situation seems pretty cool!

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