Welcome to Con Fuoco, CutCommon’s interview series with emerging musicians in Australia.
Oscar Shoyo Wong was a full music scholarship recipient at Emmanuel College before being granted early entry into the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, where he is now in his third year of a Bachelor of Music (Advanced Performance). At the conservatorium, he received the Basil Jones Sonata Prize (2017), Hilda Woolmer Prize for Piano Accompaniment (2017), Minnie May Bussey Pianoforte Scholarship (2016), and Ruby C Cooling Prize (2015/2016).
Outside the world of study, Oscar won the 2017 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, along with the Enid Lane Memorial Prize for Mozart, Best Performance of a Work by Chopin and Best Recital in Round 3. Some other highlights include first prize in the John Hopkins Performance Fellowship, and Audience Choice Prize at the 2017 Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition, first prize in the Australian Society of Keyboard Music Competition and three-times first prize at the MTAQ Queensland Piano Competition.
Oscar has performed with the Gold Coast Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. He’s Queensland’s final recipient of the prestigious Fellowship in Music Australia (F.Mus.A), having achieved LMusA and LTCL with distinctions. His performances have been broadcast on 4MBS and 102.5FM radio. More broadly, he has participated in the 21st Hamamatsu International Piano Academy in Japan, and as a passionate chamber musician performed in the Australian Piano Duo Festival and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.
Your all-time favourite piece of music?
Anything from the goodness of Bach’s Goldberg Variations to the life-proclaiming sonatas of Beethoven, through to the epic Ballades of Chopin and the intricate creations of Ravel. My recent favourite is Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana.
Biggest fear when performing?
We all feel a certain amount of fear when we perform, but the job of a performer is to be confident in himself and in the message that he wants to convey to the audience. Obviously, the fear of mistakes and memory lapses are there for any musician, but believing in your practice and presenting yourself with confidence is equally important!
Most memorable concert experience?
I have been to many fantastic concerts, but the most memorable concert so far would have to be the violin and piano duo concert by Andrew Tyson and Benjamin Beilman. I still get goosebumps thinking about the whole experience of it. I was so moved. The beauty of their sound and the energy and excitement they created in the hall was truly something special. I also recall vivid memories of Evgeny Kissin’s all-Liszt concert when I was young.
How do you psych yourself up for practice on a lazy day?
We all go through days where we don’t want to practice, but for me, an artist is someone who is willing to seek something – something that is divine – but never achieves it. But still dreams of achieving it.
Most embarrassing moment on stage?
A time when I was in high school, our ensemble hadn’t practised bowing off-stage, and our timing was different from each other. The audience finished clapping, but the curtains never seemed to go down! There was a sniggering in the audience and sweat started dripping down my face. We stood there like blind mice for what felt like a good 20 seconds!
Best piece of musical advice you’ve received?
‘Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!’ – Chopin
Favourite post-gig ritual?
Other than self-reflection and asking for constructive criticism from my peers; a drink with some friends.
What are you most proud of in your musical career so far?
The whole experience of winning the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition this year was a big moment in my career so far. That being said, what is more important for me are the rare moments when you can sense the homogeneous process of interaction through the composer, through the instrument, through the performer, and through the audience that creates a spiritual connection. These rare moments are immensely gratifying.
What do you love most about making music?
I love Victor Hugo’s quote, ‘Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent’. When I struggle to describe in words what I feel, I turn to the piano to express myself.
What’s your ultimate goal?
During my time at Queensland Conservatorium, I have finally discovered that I have learned the language of music, and now my task is to be able to speak my own words. My ultimate goal is to become a respected musician who can connect with audiences on an emotional and spiritual level. I have also been passionate about charity work since middle school, and I hope to spread my passion of music to people in underprivileged locations in the world.
Oscar will perform the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Johannes Fritzsch on November 24.