Communal music-making has been a celebrated event in all societies for centuries and it is one of the most valued activities of a society. The process does not occur in isolation and sharing you stories through your music can sometimes be a daunting experience. However, when shared among friends and family with a non-judgmental ear, this experience is often the most rewarding as it not only elevates social experience but it builds self-confidence, particularly among young performers. With the sole purpose of making music, these events offer a strong sense of belonging, as it brings people together across age, culture, and ability. It presents a non-judgmental platform for anyone to share their stories through their music.

These events often have a specific theme and participation is welcome from all walks of life. The benefits of these communal music events are immense. Among others it helps foster confidence among its participants, building a culture of musicianship among the young minds, and more importantly, it provides lifelong opportunities for continuous learning outside the formal education system. Serving the Music Department of School of The Arts, USM for its 12th year now, Dr. Yumi Yoshioka is the heart and soul behind our department’s community music programmes. Her vision and passion for creating a music community within the state of Penang has seen the birth of three very successful communal music events aimed at bringing people together through their music. The success of these events is not measured by our personal yardstick, but more legitimately by the encouraging response, it has received over the years. Some of these events are now in its 10th year running thanks to the continued support and participation from the community. The reception has been encouraging as the numbers of participants have grown from a mere handful to the hundreds today. With the popularity of these events now reaching neighboring states, Dr. Yumi and her team of dedicated music students are now tasked with taking advanced bookings from parents and piano teachers reserving slots for their children and students, so they do not miss out on the amazing experience of performing in the halls of School of The Arts. One of the many purposes of a university is to serve its community. The tremendous success of Dr. Yumi’s communal music events is a clear testament of her tireless efforts to bridge the gap between the university and the community we serve. Such dedication and passion towards one’s chosen vocation are most admirable as they are pivotal quantities that should be the ‘mantra’ of all educators.

Dr Pravina Manoharan
Music Department
School of The Arts.
Universiti Sains Malaysia

1. Piano Achievement Day

Piano Achievement Day is an annual event organized by the Music Department, School of The Arts, USM. Running into its 10th year, this event has continued to serve Malaysians from the Northern region. It offers individuals particularly children, with a non-competitive platform to experience a solo public performance. The event is open to pianists of all ages and levels. Each participant is allowed to perform two contrasting classical or pedagogical compositions for up to 15 minutes in length.

Over the years the participation for the event has seen a substantial growth and many participants view this as a preparatory performance platform in anticipation of competitions and practical examinations. This event provides an invaluable performance opportunity that allows participants to enhance their performance abilities for similar and bigger events throughout the year.

As this event is a celebration of learning the piano, participation is free of charge and all supporters are welcomed to the event. Watching performances of families, friends, or students is always a thrilling and enjoyable experience. As performers, the stress of performing for an audience is alleviated as the familiar faces in the audience is always a welcoming sight.

We believe that musical performance is an experiential process. Therefore, the event is held in a hall equipped with a grand piano. To enhance the sense of occasion, each performer is required to be formally dressed and all standard performance and concert etiquette is observed. Each participant will receive written commentaries from evaluators consisting of USM music lecturers and professional musicians in addition to a certificate of participation conferred at the conclusion of the event. A photoshoot session rounds the Piano Achievement Day where participants and organizers can bring home a piece of memory from this event.

2. Piano Duet Festival

Piano Duet Festival is currently in its 5th year running. This event comprises two parts: the Duet Festival which runs during the daytime and a Gala Concert in the evening. The event is open to the general public at no cost. This Festival is an excellent opportunity to make music together in a collaborative manner with others. Staying true to its name, the Festival welcomes participants from all ages, all levels, and performances from all musical genres. The only criteria are that there must be two pianists at the piano at all times.

USM’s Piano Duet Festival is scheduled annually at the end of November and welcomes a myriad of musical genres and seasonal musical offerings. Past performances have witnessed a variety of duet partners such as teacher and student, friends and parent with child. Such a diverse partnership at the piano brings forth new connections as time spent together practicing with your friend, teacher, or parent creates a bond that surpasses the practice of mere music-making.

Piano Duet Gala Concert concludes the evening of this festival. Performers for the evening comprise invited pianists from across Malaysia, USM Music lecturers, and the Music Department’s performance major students. In addition, two pairs of excellent performers selected from the daytime event will also be invited to perform in the Gala Concert. The Gala Concert is a true music-making event, showcasing performers from the USM’s Music Department and musicians from the local community.

3. Free Piano Lesson Program

USM’s Music Department has been offering a Free Piano Lesson Program to children from within the university campus and the local community for the past decade. The program which is a ten-week program offers nine weekly 30min individual piano lessons to children from across Penang island. The lessons will eventually culminate in a concert that will be performed by the teacher and the student. These lessons are provided to absolute beginners consisting mainly of young children who do not have the opportunity to learn music. Our Free Piano Lesson program is held in the first semester of USM’s academic year, and children will perform on the piano together with their intern music instructors as part of the annual USM Music Department Concert.

The program has just celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2019 and has brought the gift of music to 100’s of children since its inception. The purpose of the programmes is to offer a platform and opportunity for children to experience the joys of making music on the piano. This programmes is part of the department’s pedagogy class that is a compulsory paper for all music students. The university’s music major students have an opportunity to work with these young children, as they gain pre-service experience from the program. The program serves as a hands-on reinforcement as students put their theoretical knowledge to practice.

The success of this programme has been very encouraging as many of these young learners have chosen to continue taking lessons even after the free program has ended. This program has been well-received, garnering positive comments from parents, children, and USM music major students.