How to Practice, from Two 2010 Menuhin 1st Prize Winners

April 9, 2012, 3:56 PM · BEIJING -- Okay, this is official: two 2010 Menuhin 1st Prize Winners usually only practice one hour a day and two or three hours a day before a competition.

Last evening, Kerson Leong and Angelo (Xiang) Yu both had fantastic recital performance at Middle School of Conservatory of Music. There was a question-answer period at the end of their performance. The first question they got was about practice: How could one practice so little yet get the 1st prize? The answers came from Kerson and Angelo were pretty much same:
1. Think nine times then play once but not the other way around;
2. Mental practice: visualizing the music, how it should sound and how it can be best executed (bowing, fingering and shifting, etc.);
3. Slow practice the difficult fast passages; and
4. Keep a healthy life style with a lot of sports and exercise.

During this question-answer period, the parents of the winners were also on the stage to tell their stories. Kerson’s father (a physicist) talked about how he worked with Kerson on tone production and movements. Angelo (Xiang) Yu talked about the incredible strength he discovered inside himself when mourning his late mother. Engaging parents in this way gives the audience a quite different perspective about the competition that we usually don’t get by watching the competition at distance.

I think Menuhin Competition has done a pretty good job to show that that it’s a family event and the sacrifice and accomplishment of the parents are much appreciated. Having watched how the competitors interact with each other, discussed with some of the parents and an executive member of the Menuhin Competition, it becomes obvious that the competitors, while being extremely serious about their performance, generally treat the competition as a big party with family, making music and friends and having a grand time. Unlike sports, winning or losing seems to be of secondary importance to them. It’s kind of funny to think about how some of us (myself especially) watching the competition can get so worked up about who wins or loses over the competition.


April 9, 2012 at 11:08 PM · Hi,

I have known Kerson personally for many years and he is indeed a fantastically gifted violinist and musician and a fantastic young man. It is nice to hear about him from someone else about his accomplishments! He deserves all the success he is entitled to and has so wonderfully earned!


April 10, 2012 at 08:30 AM · they won the junior bracket right? I wanted to listen to the stream too, but the time difference wasn't that comfortable, plus I had problems with the VOD'S on their side. Anyway its nice to hear such wise words, but I don't really believe it. I am sorry. All the additional things are true indeed. That keeping a good health and thinking before playing is of great importance. But I am sure these kids do their scales every day plus some etudes and repertoire work. If they don't I wonder if they will still be able to compete as an adult. And if they can fit it one hour, they are superhumans :)

But yes, they are still young and for that age that amount seems reasonable. But it should not be a guideline for an professional I think.

April 10, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Simon,

There's nothing about the junior division violin playing that would suggest anything but fully developed musicianship. They're playing like adult professionals already.

But you could be right about the amount of time they practice.


April 10, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Simon, believe or not, they are superhumans! Whether you are comfortable calling them prodigies or violin genius, they are the type of kids seem to have the innate power to grasp complex music ideas, develop on their own without much teaching, and progress in extraordinary speed. Doubt as you may, you haven't met them so I don't blame you for not being able to even begin to imagine the level of talent and integrity these two top prize winners have.

The senior and junior are just different in ages: seniors are age 16 to 22 and juniors are between age 11and 15. But as Terry rightly said, these competitors all seem to have pretty impressive performance experience with professional orchestras and have own many prizes before coming to Menuhin Competition.

April 10, 2012 at 01:39 PM · I know that they play good and with expression. And I hope they will have a great career in future. But I tend to be realistic about those flashy statements, wich are just made to hype the "genius" of the children even more. To me thats marketing and show business. Young talented kids will always be exploited by adults.

I am not a big fan of this junior competitions from an artistic point of view. But I think they are a good preperation for later. But noone wins such an prestigious competition with one hour of practice daily. There is not a tiniest little bit of doubt about that in me, I am sorry.

April 13, 2012 at 11:58 PM · Xiang Yu is an amazing violinist. If you're in the Boston area, don't miss his recital at NEC on April 25.

April 15, 2012 at 09:34 PM · It may or may not be the case that they practice only an hour a day. The issue is truly how they practice. Their testimonies support the 'myelin thesis' described in 'The Talent Code, Greatness isn't born. It's grown'- I highly recommend this book about 'deep practicing' which allows to produce results in a fraction of the time spent on what could be called superficial practice. Enjoy! Congratulations to the winners!

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