Catching up with…pianist James He

Pianist James He. Photo credit: Daniel Spellman

Our next catch-up is with pianist James He. James appeared on The Talent in 2018 with a programme of Bach and Chopin. It’s been a challenging year for him, but in our chat he tells us how, though lockdown has taken its toll, he’s still been busy, and even found a hidden upside to staying at home.

James, thanks for taking the time to chat. What have you been up to since your last appearance at 3MBS? 

I have recently just finished participating in isaDigital 2020, a fully online music festival held by the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. At the festival, I had the opportunity of being mentored by renowned pianists such as Boris Berman, Avedis Kouyoumdjian, Jan Jiracek von Armin, Gottlieb Wallisch and the Silver-Garburg Piano Duo. It was an amazing opportunity where I normally would’ve had to fly thousands of miles overseas to participate, but because of COVID I could experience the festival right here in Melbourne.  

How are you doing/coping during lockdown? 

The lockdown has been quite hard on me, and staying at home for such a long period of time definitely takes a toll on your mental health. But it is important to constantly find ways of alleviating the stress that has arisen, whether it is from school, work, or your personal life. Personally, I have found a constant practice of meditation, yoga and other self-care activities to be extremely beneficial and allows me to concentrate on striving to learn as much as I can about music and piano playing.  

How has COVID impacted your life/music/creativity? 

COVID has definitely impacted everyone who is studying music, since you cannot rehearse together for chamber music and you are restricted to online lessons with your teacher. However I’ve found that the benefits of COVID is that since all my classes are now online, it removes the travel time I used to have and allows me to spend more time practicing, in addition to being able to participate in isaDigital 2020 at my own home.  It is often hard for me to find creative inspiration when you’re not able to just go out and appreciate the world that is around us and with such a devastating virus that is currently affecting so many people’s lives, it is hard to not feel for everyone else who has been impacted in such a significant way. However, I think it’s important to try and focus on the present moment and what you can achieve right now to the best of your abilities and to not lose sight of your own goals and aspirations.  

What’s your number 1 strategy for beating the lockdown blues? 

The best strategy for me is to try and find a balance between things you want to do and things you have to do. For instance, although I love playing the piano, practicing for a long period of time is a very exhausting process both physically and mentally, especially when you’re trying to perfect every little detail in your pieces. So, I like to go out and walk or do some online shopping or any other activity that helps me relax.  

What do you look forward to most post-lockdown? 

I look forward to making music in a face-to-face setting, eating out at restaurants, going to the movies and just shopping around the CBD with a large bubble tea in my hand!  

Where/how can we support you and your music? 

You can follow me on Instagram or visit my Youtube channel, where I post a bit more often.

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