Today I have the pleasure of presenting an interview with Krystian Chiu. Krystian and I attended the same high school, and I am happy to be acquainted with such a fantastic cellist and upstanding man as he is. He currently attends Indiana University as part of the renowned Jacobs School of Music.
Here is a video of Krystian's string quartet performing at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition this past May.
- How long Have you been playing cello?
I've been playing since 4, so I'm entering my 15th year.
2. What do you do physically before practicing, if anything? (i.e. stretching)
I do normally stretch, especially my back because I tend to have some tension issues there. I have also started swimming everyday to help stretch out my upper body which has actually been helping a lot.3. What time(s) of day do you normally practice?I try to fit in two hours in the morning/early afternoon from 10-12, and then another two hours from 6-8. If I'm having a really busy day, I will try to fit in at least 3 hours.
4. What do you normally do after practicing (i.e. eating)?After my morning practices, I either go to my lesson or next class, and if I don't have those to go to, I'll probably go eat lunch and then head off to the gym.
5. So what exactly does your practice look like? Do you have a routine?
I usually start out with warm up scales, études, and vibrato exercises for at least an hour. Then, I move on to Bach suites for about 45 minutes to an hour, then my concerto for one to two hours, depending if I have any other pieces to work on.
6. How did you establish your routine? Did a teacher or multiple teachers help you? Have you read any scientific studies on practice that influenced you?
The teacher that probably had the most influence on my routine would be the teacher I studied with in high school, Hans Jensen. He is big on having a good routine and practicing well. I've also met several teachers at summer programs who have given me their thoughts on practice, and I've done my best to try to combine all the ideas.7. What would you say is the most important part of your routine?
I would say the most important part of my routine is focus. Basically, quality over quantity. I used to try to practice long hours, but I wouldn't be focusing and accomplishing much. But lately, I've been doing two hour sets while focusing as much as possible. Even in a two hour session in the morning, I feel like I've accomplished a lot already.
8. What has the most impact on your growth as a player overall?
Chamber music in particular has helped me grow as a musician. I used to be a rather stiff and unmusical player, but after going through two years of intense chamber music, it helped me unlock a passion for music I never had before9. Do you enjoy practicing?
Sometimes I enjoy practicing, but like anyone, it can get frustrating. But most of the time, I do enjoy it.
10. How has your practicing changed since attending college?In high school, especially during the earlier years, I would view practice as a chore. It was something I had to do today, and relating back to focus, I would not be focused on the music, but rather on the time there was left before I was done. From my junior year on, I have been trying to make the best of the time I have available.11. How do you achieve your specific sound on the cello?I try to make my sound as round and rich as possible. Something I pay attention to in many people's playing is how mature it sounds. I have had many technique exercise to strengthen my bow arm in particular to achieve the most mature sound as possible.12. How do you stay motivated to practice every day?What motivates me to practice, at least at the moment is getting into Juilliard for grad school, and hopefully one day, one of the major orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony. Music isn't an easy field, and knowing that hard practice will pay off is an enough of a motivator for me.
13. What is your process for learning a new piece or excerpt?
With a new piece, I'll listen to a recording first. Then I'll skim the piece a bit and look for the most difficult sections. I'll mainly focus on those sections, but will also drill running sections leading into that specific difficult passage.
14. Why practice at all? Aren't you good enough already?I don't see myself as "good enough" because I know there is always room for improvement. Especially in music, when a job such as orchestral position comes down to two people, it's always best to practice and be prepared.15. What exactly did you practice today (or the last time you practiced)?
I started my daily practices with an hour of technique exercises which includes scales, etudes, and bow exercise. I then movec on to solo Bach suites, and then my concerto. I'll tried to practice at least 3 to 4 hours.What stood out to me:-He practices 3-4 hours a day, but not all at once-He exercises regularly-He pays special attention to technique vs. repertoire-He combines a variety of teachers' input on how to practice-Believes focus is the most important part of practice
Just for fun, this is a video of the first time I heard Krystian play, when he was only a sophomore in high school!