Classical concerts for babies and children. Founder - Miaomiao Yu
Founder of Bach to Baby, concert pianist and mum
Known for her artistic mastery and effervescent stage-presence, pianist Miaomiao Yu has delighted audiences across North America and Europe in venues including the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts, the Musikhalle in Hamburg, National Concert Hall in Dublin, Cadogan Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields and St James Piccadilly, London. Her broadcasts on television and radio include Channel 4, BBC London, BBC World Services, RTE (Ireland), CBC and Bravo (Canada).
Miaomiao has gained much recognition on the international scene with prizes at the Hong Kong International Piano Competition, Toronto Symphony Piano Competition, London International Concerto Competition, Bromsgrove International Young Soloists Competition, Imperial Oils Young Performers Competition, and the Royal Overseas League Competition.
Miaomiao’s international upbringing on three continents provided her with a unique set of experiences to create her rich sound palette. Since receiving her first scholarship at the age of 11 from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Miaomiao went on to garner over 50 awards including the Wingate and the Countess of Munster Scholarships in the UK, and was a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar representing Canada. Miaomiao attended the Young Artists’ Performance Academy, a pre-college programme for gifted young musicians at the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) in Toronto. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the RCM, and Masters in Music Performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Miaomiao is the founder of the acclaimed concert series Bach to Baby , an innovative series designed for babies and their families where Miaomiao performs with internationally renowned guest artists.
Since 2007, Miaomiao has been a Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, junior department. She lives in an eco-house with her husband Jo and sons Mercutio Hanhan and Aubrey Keyan.
Besides being mum to my darling boys, I am a concert pianist. One of the things I missed since having my boys is being able to pop out to concerts on a moment's whim. That's why I decided to start a concert series which welcomes both parents and babies.
My idea is to provide top quality classical music to entertain adults, while giving children the chance to hear and explore live instruments up close during the crucial early years. Children have an innate ability to understand complexity almost through osmosis. It is my firm belief that the music our children listen to doesn't have to be dumbed down.
Feature interview from Life Style Planets, the online magazine
Miaomiao Yu – from Bach to Babies
April 4, 2014
“If I don’t take this time, I don’t have other times, so I have to make time if I want to make something happen!” Miaomiao Yu speaks with bright energy even though it’s nearing 9pm on a Friday night. “We are doing this interview after our children have settled – this is my golden hour!”
Classical musician and founder of Bach to Baby, Miaomiao and I are swapping tips on how mothers balance their work, children and creative projects. I feel connected to this bright, amazing woman when she adds, “it sounds like you’ve got your hands full and you’re trying to do all of this cool stuff, too!”
Before we even start my list of questions, we’re talking about teething problems, supportive spouses and how we are even making this interview happen.
“The whole issue of balance is something that I’m constantly struggling with,” the mother of two admits whole-heartedly.
“I keep changing my perspective on that. Currently what I believe in - ” she laughs, as she often does “- it’s not about balancing everything in some equilibrium, it’s more of a see-saw act. Sometimes you’ve got to focus on one thing and sometimes you’ve got to focus on something else. Every day, or every week, it’s a matter of what are my top priorities for my life at this moment. So that’s how I see the balancing thing THIS month, it might change!” And she erupts into giggles again.
Award-winning pianist and teacher, Miaomiao started a series of classical music concerts for young children and their parents/carers across London after she had her own children. “The concert series is about being – taking classical music out of that stuffy atmosphere and just saying, this is music just like any other kind of music, it’s a concert, it’s where we communicate, and we enjoy and it’s not about [stuffy voice] this is classical music!”
Bach to Baby concerts are packed out and world-class musicians perform for an audience, half of whom are in nappies and who often fall asleep mid-recital. But the idea wasn’t always so well received.
“The biggest challenge when I was starting was for people to believe that it would work,” Miaomiao confesses readily.
“Because it’s just this crazy idea people thought I wanted for my children and myself. I approached various venues and they kind of laughed me off! They were like – well, nobody goes to classical music concerts these days, they don’t get an audience, why do you think you’re ever going to get an audience?”
Like many people with the dream of starting a new business or venture, Miaomiao sought support from her friends.
A young audience member gets up close and personal at a Bach to Baby concert, photography by Alejandro Tamagno
“I have a community of mums and they were really supportive. That’s why Lifestyle Planet is so attractive to me, because it’s about women supporting women. We need to talk and have that camaraderie and we want that support network. That’s how I had the courage to try it out. We set it up in my house – we just had tea and coffee and we sang together. Then the first concert [in a hired venue] 300 people showed up!”
Any preconceptions people may have about classical music are quickly erased by Miaomiao’s warm, international-accented voice and her infectious passion for music of all kinds.
“There’s so much elitism involved,” she reflects. “I remember a friend who said to me – at that age when we went clubbing! – when I get older then I’ll start listening to classical music. I was like, what the hell? Why not listen to it now? I love music of all kinds, I’m not saying classical music is all you listen to but it’s like anything, if you give it enough exposure, you start to understand the language, the rhythm and the harmonies and the feelings.
Why do people compose? It’s because they feel something. Just go and experience it and it will say something to you.”
Maria Speight, writer of this interview, with her son at a Bach to Baby concert in Camden, London. Photography by Alejandro Tamagno
So how do we – ordinary men and women, some parents, some music lovers, some lucky enough to live in exciting cities, some not – experience classical music for ourselves? Where do we begin?
“Put on the radio and dance and laugh, sway, move, listen to music and talk about what appeals to you. Oh, listen to that instrument or whoa, that’s cool or that was dark or whatever! Things that one can relate to and once you find one thing you can relate to then it always leads to something else. It’s just about making connections. Forget about the respect thing. It’s about loving music and enjoying life and that’s what music is about.”
When I tell her one of my lasting memories of childhood is racing around the living room listening to The Hall of the Mountain King by Tchaikovsky, she squeals in appreciation. “Oh, I know! Sometimes I hear certain pieces of music and I just have to run!”
As it’s nearing bedtime and neither of us feel like stopping our chat, I have to ask her my last question – what advice would she give those of us who want to start a creative project but are nervous about taking the first step?
“Just do it! Really – it’s like what’s the worst that could happen? It doesn’t work out? Well, you tried and it’s better than not trying.
“If it doesn’t work you’d still be in the same place than if you haven’t tried but at least you’ll know that you tried and you didn’t just do nothing.
“And that for me is cool because I’ve done something about it. Just do the first step. The first step is always the hardest. I think we also get very much into details and I have that problem too, I think about details and get bogged down sometimes and it’s great to have that attention but sometimes you’ve just got to have the broad brush strokes – and just go for it.”
Bach to Baby’s brand new Kickstarter campaign here
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