Candace Chu

AMEF Student Recognition Award recipient

Tell us something about yourself.

"I grew up in a non-musical family with limited resources. Music education was considered a luxury, not a necessity. Unlike many of my peers whose parents made arrangements for their music education, I remembered begging my parents to send me to piano lessons at age three. However, it took another year-and-a-half before my wish was finally granted. Ever since then, I have always been grateful for the privilege to pursue music.

“At age 11 I passed my grade 10 Royal Conservatory of Music Exam with the highest score in Edmonton, as well as First Class Honours with Distinction. One month after my 14th birthday, I completed the ARCT Piano Performer’s Exam with First Class Honors. Despite my achievement at a young age, it was my commitment in using my musical gift to serve the community that more than justified not only the cost of my music education, but all the hard work I put into mastering the art.

“Currently, at age 19, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Alberta while continuing my piano study with Mr. David Tutt at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music. In addition to a number of leadership positions both within and outside of school, I continue to use my music to serve the community at large."

Why did you want to study music and specifically, the piano?

"As a toddler, my first exposure to classical music was a CD called Snoopy’s Classical: Classiks on Toys. I enjoyed listening to it over and over again. Until today, I am intrigued not only because the music was performed on toy instruments, but also how well it was played. I guess I must have been inspired by Schroeder’s precocious skills at the piano. I was able to play by ear some familiar tunes on my toy piano even before my first piano lesson. This probably explains why I wanted to study piano instead of another instrument."

What difficulties have you faced in the past when paying for your music education?

"When I begged my parents to give me piano lessons as a toddler, I had no idea how much music education cost. My parents could only afford half-hour weekly lessons. Then, as I progressed to higher levels, 45-minute lessons and eventually one-hour lessons were needed. Fortunately, every year I was able to win a number of scholarships from competitions to help offset part of the tuition."

How did you learn about the AMEF SRAs and what interested you about them?

"I saw the posters at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music and went online to check the details. At the same time, my piano teacher was well aware of the awards, and knowing that I had always been actively serving the community, he encouraged me to enter the competition.

“Two things about the awards interested me. First, the generous sum of $1,000 was a big incentive and much needed financial relief. Second, the video requirements sparked my interest because I had experience as a volunteer photographer/videographer in the past, and considered myself semi-proficient in making video presentations.

“With respect to the Community Service Award, I knew at that time that I already had plenty of photos taken as mementos for my community services. I only had to compile them and to find an audio recording to go along with it."

You are the only candidate to win the AMEF SRAs in both categories of Music Performance AND Community Service in two separate years. What did you gain from receiving both these awards?

"I am deeply honored to be chosen as the winner in both categories. Being selected by the judges as the winner is like gaining their vote of confidence and having their reassurance that I am on the right track as a musician. It is wonderful to excel in music performance, but the greatest joy comes from utilizing the beautiful sound of music to touch people, to put a smile on their faces, and to make a difference in their lives."

Have the AMEF SRAs impacted your life in a unique way?

"In the past, YouTube was a website that I visited often as a spectator, but not an active participant. AMEF SRAs changed all that, as competitors are required to submit their recordings to a YouTube account to be viewed by the judges and the general public. I find this requirement for the Community Service Award both challenging and interesting. It forces me to reflect on myself, take an inventory of my community efforts, and compile a 5-minute presentation to show how I have incorporated my musical abilities in accomplishing my volunteer services.

“Because of AMEF, I now have two personal videos on YouTube. I will look forward to producing and uploading more videos in the future to share my joy of music making with the greater online audience."

What do you think the AMEF SRAs can do for other aspiring young Alberta music students?

"Judging from the overwhelming success over the past two years, I believe AMEF SRAs have already achieved all four stated objectives of nurturing young talents:

  1. Recognizing outstanding performance;
  2. Commending volunteerism;
  3. Encouraging creativity; and
  4. Strengthening collaboration among music students, educators and the community

“In addition, I trust that the SRAs will continue to provide an opportunity for young Alberta music students to inspire and to be inspired, and to expand the horizon of their creativity."

What successful tips do you have for other music students who are applying for the AMEF SRAs?

  • "Before recording, carefully read the requirements. Since there is a 5-minute limit for the video, your music selection may be somewhat restricted.
  • "Choose a piece that you enjoy playing/singing the most.
  • "Test the audio level so that there is no distortion during the loudest passages of your selection, and so the softest portions can be heard."

"With respect to the Community Service Award, the students should be involved in volunteering on an ongoing basis. It would otherwise be very difficult, if not impossible, to produce a five-minute long video showcasing your community contributions."

And finally, where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

"I am a pianist and an aspiring social entrepreneur. Ten years from now, I envision myself to be a successful business leader who will be in an excellent position to fund and support the arts in our community.

“Over the years as a piano student, I have been blessed with the unconditional kindness and generosity of organizations such as AMEF as well as individual donors. In the same way these donors have blessed me, I will pledge my support to music students who are in need, so that they are free to pursue a career in music without financial constraints; and in return, they will use their musical talents to perpetuate the joy of giving back to their community."

Candace Chu

Candace Chu
photo: Pryma Photographers