5C Classical Musicians Share Common Passion, Differ in Paths and Experience

For many students involved with classical music at the 5Cs, music has been a lifelong
endeavor that they do not plan to abandon any time soon. Countless hours of practice have gone into getting where they are, and they enjoy playing, both for themselves and others. And yet, there is a fundamental individuality that underlies the musical experience; though there is community, there is a divide that comes from being immersed in separate musical careers. But despite their different interests and backgrounds, student musicians are brought together by their common passion for music. 

Johnny Wang PO ’17, who began his musical career when he was 5 years old, plays piano, violin, and cello. He initially played piano in Taiwan, where he lived until his
family moved to Southern California when he was in eighth grade. In the beginning, his parents pushed his musical career, but he slowly gained passion for music and developed self-discipline.

“I feel like it’s hard to genuinely like playing an
instrument before you somewhat know how to play something, and you can actually
feel the enjoyment of playing,” Wang said. “After
that, you don’t need anyone else to push you, because it’s for you.”

He likened playing music to playing sports.

“If you can’t dribble the ball, how are you
going to feel the competitiveness if you play in a game?” he said. “You have to develop the fundamentals before
you get to the fun part, and after you get to the fun part you have to develop
passion. If you truly have passion, I
feel like you can do anything well.”

Wang was recently featured in a performance of Franz Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major” with the Pomona College Orchestra after
winning their concerto competition in the fall. He was
chosen from among all the contestants after an audition process in front of a panel
of judges. This is his first semester
playing with the orchestra. While he said he has enjoyed the experience, he also feels that it differs from his experience playing in larger orchestras.  

“I’ve been in
orchestra throughout high school, I’ve been to all-state orchestras, and,
because I live close to Claremont, I was in a youth orchestra in Claremont,” Wang said. “The experience is nice, right
now, especially because I got to play a piano solo with them, but I still have
to experience the rest.” 

Wang is unsure whether or not he will play in the orchestra
for the remainder of his college career, as he is a pre-med physics major with a
demanding course load. However, he is confident that his
passion for music will continue throughout college and the rest of his life. 

Roger Sheu PO ’14, who performed March 8 in a senior recital at Bridges Hall of Music, shares Wang’s passion for music. 

Sheu, a pianist who has been playing since he was 4 years old, does not play in the Pomona’s orchestra. Instead, he has participated in many student
recitals and, two years ago, won the same concerto contest that Wang won this
year. He has also sung in Glee Club and the Pomona College Choir. 

“I like the accessibility and the opportunities they give to
perform,” Sheu said. “I mean, I’m not even a music
major, and they let me perform a lot for a non-music major. At a large university, they may have
conservatory, they may have really strong music students, but they probably would give priority to those students in
the music program.” 

When Sheu was first learning piano, he was motivated by early successes to continue playing.

“I was fairly ahead as a child,” Sheu said. “I won quite a few competitions when I was
relatively younger, like when I was 6 through 10 years old. Winning competition is exciting of
course. You get that big trophy. You get the feeling that you did something,
that you accomplished something that you can be proud of.”

Sheu plans to attend a graduate program for chemistry or environmental engineering. He hopes to work in a government lab,
potentially in atmospheric chemistry. The accessibility of music opportunities is an important factor for him in choosing a graduate program, and he
hopes to continue playing as long as he can.

Floriane Schroetter,
an international student from Sciences Po in Paris studying at Pitzer College, decided to incorporate her musical talents into her experience abroad. She auditioned in the fall for the Claremont
Concert Orchestra, which comprises students from Pitzer, Harvey Mudd College, Scripps College, and
Claremont McKenna College, and received a chair as one of the first

She performed with the orchestra last semester in
a production of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” and this past weekend in a production of Dvořák,
Brahms, Liszt, and Schumann. She also
played a solo piece at a student recital Thursday, March 13. 

From a young age, Schroetter was interested in music due to her parents’ musical involvement, but picked the violin on her own and stuck with it. Her parents play wind instruments and are part of a community folk music orchestra in her native Strasbourg, France.

“They didn’t want me to play the violin because all my
family play wind instruments in a folk orchestra, and so when I said that I
wanted to play the violin, they said, ‘Oh, why don’t you play the clarinet, for
example,’ so that I could join the orchestra and play with them, and I said, ‘No, no I don’t want to,'” Schroetter said.

For Schroetter, playing music has always been a positive experience, driven by her own desire to pursue it.

“At the beginning my father would always practice with me, every day half an hour after school,” Schroetter said. “At the beginning they had to tell me to practice, but after the first year, he stopped and it was just me who decided to do it regularly. I was really serious. I don’t know how, because I was like 7 years old.”

Schroetter has played in three orchestras in her life: a philharmonic orchestra in Strasbourg, the
school orchestra at Sciences Po, and the Claremont Concert Orchestra. While she has enjoyed her experience with the
Claremont orchestra and thinks it has the most talent of the three orchestras,
she misses the community aspect of her university’s orchestra.

“I have the impression that here the people don’t really
know each other in the orchestra,” Schroetter said. “I find
it a bit of a shame, because I know just the people who are playing with me,
the violinists, that are just next to me, just in front of me, or just behind
me. But the other ones, I don’t really know them, or I know them because I met
them somewhere else. It’s not thanks to
the orchestra that I know them. In France,
usually, after the rehearsal we go to a bar or we have parties after the
concerts, and here it’s really different.”

The Pomona College Orchestra will perform its fourth and final program with the Pomona College Choir and the University of Redlands Chapel Singers on April 18 at 8 p.m. and April 20 at 3 p.m. The Claremont Concert Orchestra will perform its final program May 3 at 8 p.m. and May 4 at 3 p.m.

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