I make up part of the Odora Piano Trio and have witnessed, with surprise, confusion, delight and pride how our creative lives have changed both together and individually since our formation in early 2017, when we were just 19. We have each graduated now- me from my undergrad and Sophie and Songeun have just completed the one-year masters programme at the Royal Academy of Music. They have not only completed it, but completed it with humility, dedication and with some unbelievable successes.
Trio has always been my safe place. Arriving into it as a stressed and anxious obsessive person, the others have always shown me another way to be a musician. They have worked through many artistic and personal challenges, but never have I felt them being anything other than entirely self giving, supportive and kind. We have never found ourselves in competition with each other. Never have conversations focussed around hours of practice or festivals and competitions won. Never pitched against each other, I don’t know how much the others practice and I don’t need to.
Asking how their masters exams went and I am taken to a new level of awe. Numerical success in exams is arbitrary, of course, but their results are baffling. Songeun reluctantly discloses her recital mark of 90%- a mark of 70 achieving distinction. Sophie achieves 86% and I am feeling emotional. Maybe in the past this might out of self loathing, knowing I could never achieve such marks in my own exams, but actually the emotion comes from joy in how strong their personhood is. I know them as people, never sacrificing friendship for practice or enjoyment for practice or using competition as a means of fulfilment. I am aware how blessed I am to play with people of this calibre, but most importantly with people who want to meet people, play for people and share with people, this holding far more importance than a mark they might achieve.
But the mark says a lot about the musicians they are and the dedication they have. It is a celebration of how hard they have worked during such difficult circumstances and how important it is to understand that success doesn’t have to be at the expense of the person you are. Success is more exciting when it lives alongside freedom, friendship and the knowledge of how little marks really mean in the context of the huge, ephemeral musical landscapes.