Monthly Archives: December 2015

Student-to-Teacher: Leadership Interview

For my interview, I decided on interviewing my piano teacher, Sunny Byun. Sunny has been very involved in the community, and other than being an accomplished music teacher, she has her Bachelor’s in piano performance, is in the UBC Master’s program for piano performance, has a psychology minor, teaches music classes at a preschool, and much more. As you can see, she is not only an accomplished musician, but an incredible leader in the community who has influenced so many people, including (but not limited to) her students.

Let’s see what she had to say about some of the questions I had for her.

“What kind of education and experience have you received in the field of music, both learning and teaching?”

To paraphrase her answers, Sunny started piano lessons at age 6 in Korea, and was not very serious or competitive, not considering pursuing music until her teacher mentioned it to her when she was 8.

In high school, she was piano accompanist for choir, band, jazz band, and vocal jazz. When I asked if accompanying helped her become a better musician, or if she a was a good accompanist because she was already a good musician, she replied “Definitely the latter.” She wasn’t saying it to be cocky, she was instead saying that being able to accompany others came with her hard-earned skills. As she put it, “When they needed an accompanist, I already had the skills, so I just needed to know the music, and play when they needed.”

In terms of becoming a teacher, it started as a volunteer job, where her family friend’s children wanted to take piano lessons. From there, word-of-mouth got her many more students, and eventually, a paying job. Friends of friends were being referred to her, and she quickly gained lots of experience.

I asked her what qualities she possesses that make her a good leader, to which she replied, “I’m pretty determined. Determined would be the positive word, but stubborn would be a better one.” She also said, “I’m able to talk to a lot of people well. Like the parents [of students], colleagues… And I can voice my opinion. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% good at it, but that got me to where I am, and through that, I became more assertive.” Here, it really says a lot about what kind of leader she is. Leaders work in different ways, behind the scenes and commanding the ship, but having good people skills is an essential quality that every leader should have, in order for them to get their point across to those they are leading.

In reference to getting to the position of Vice Principal of the Salina Cheng Music Academy, she told me, “Part of it, I think, is just luck. Timing was right; I was just nearly finishing up my degree when Salina offered me the position of Vice Principal, because she knew me the longest (of the other teachers). I wouldn’t say it’s 100% my effort, but 50% luck, and 50% my effort.”

When I asked her what she thought she could do to become an even better influence on the community, these were her thoughts: “I could… socialize more. Go out there, talk to more people. Making connections with people, being able to engage in conversation for a long time without being… a little awkward. Other than that, I would like to do more volunteer work.”

In regards to the UBC music program, I asked her if the Masters or Bachelors program was more beneficial to her learning, to which she replied, “Well, it’s only because I’m doing my Masters in the same school as I did my Bachelors in, so I don’t feel like a, I don’t know, a step up from my Bachelor years? But Bachelors was when I realized what studying music meant and what the other professors actually are, what they actually do…” In the end, she said that although the jump from high school to university was much larger than she expected, she learned more, in a sense, from her Bachelors than she is in her Masters.

“What are some of your major accomplishments, both for yourself and in the community?”

“I would say the fact that I’m positioned as Vice Principal here, in the Academy, it’s probably the biggest accomplishment. I’ve also made myself into a music teacher at a local preschool, the Over the Rainbow Preschool. That was also 50% luck, 50% effort. At that time, I was actually looking for volunteer activities to get into the community more.”

Aside from being an accomplished music teacher and performer, Sunny has been in a successful music trio which went on to a provincial competition. She was also in another trio that volunteered to perform in different senior homes in Vancouver.

In high school, she was the main accompanist (“Partially because there was no one else,” she said) for band, choir, jazz band, vocal jazz, and musicals. Whenever a pianist was required, she was the first choice.

“Who have been some of your biggest inspirations along the way, and why?”

When asked this question, Sunny immediately began to describe her first piano teacher (back in Korea), her previous UBC teacher Jane Coop (member of the Order of Canada), and Dr. Salina Cheng, her former teacher and owner of the academy Sunny currently works in. There seemed to be a pattern in what qualities Sunny found inspiring. On the one hand, they all were different teachers with different styles, but she seemed to admire their drive, and their care for their students beyond teaching. “[…] She would yell in lessons. But really deep inside, she would really care about those students, and that’s why she yelled. I guess otherwise she wouldn’t have cared, she wouldn’t have even said anything to them,” she said, while giving thoughts on her first teacher (in Korea). “The fact that she could bring up these ideas and convince the parents to get all of the times in… that was pretty amazing. She was actually one of these teachers who came to their homes, instead of having her own student, so that’s pretty– that’s a great thing to do.”

Dr. Salina Cheng, her teacher before UBC (and head teacher of where Sunny currently teaches and I attend lessons), was not as strict as her previous teacher. “But the way she ran the Academy, again, all the ideas she had…” “Just being able to convince all these parents to get their children enrolled in various activities she wants to put on; that sort of determination and assertiveness is what I want to learn from.”

Her undergrad teacher, Jane Coop, was a concert pianist, teacher, and member of the Order of Canada. When talking about Ms. Coop’s important to her, she said, “She had… 15 students. That’s 15 students, 75 minutes per lesson, and on top of that, she was a concert pianist with concert times everywhere, and she was just able to keep on top of her schedule.” “At the same time, she was able to keep a good family life as well.”

All of Sunny’s teachers seemed to go above and beyond what was required of a teacher. They would organize concerts, gathered students outside of lessons (to form a mini choir, for example), and schedule events that were not at all required of them.

I also sense that Sunny admires the qualities of organization, care, assertiveness, drive, and passion. All of her teachers, while strict, wanted the best for their students. Talking about Jane Coop’s influence on her teaching style, Sunny said, “While I was teaching the time too, I was trying to be like her as much as possible. And still, I’m trying to be like her. Becoming is her is like my goal.” Having learned under Sunny for 3 years, I can say that she demonstrates the above qualities in abundance. At times, she can be very straight with me, and although I would not call her scary, everything she says, every little articulation she corrects, every bit of criticism is in my best interest. She does it because she cares.

To wrap up the interview, “What, in your opinion, is the best quality for someone to have in order for them to positively influence others?”

“Having a good vision, I would say. Having a good– Knowing exactly what they want for themselves, or for others, and being able to communicate that without being harsh, obviously, if you’re going to command someone, or tell anyone to do anything. So I would say, I guess being assertive. I think that having good communication skills would be good.”

Perhaps I am a bit biased, but I think Sunny demonstrates these traits in abundance. Every student she has, she has a vision for them as well. For me, she wants me to push myself to be better, and to do well, but do well for myself and not for the sake of others. She does not think of me as a little machine who replicates everything she tells me to do. She believes that I am an individual. I mean, what kind of teacher gets you cute little gifts from Christmas, or invites you to Jane Coop’s exclusive concert, or attends your recreational concerts completely out of her schedule? Sunny is not just my teacher. She is my mentor; any older sister; a leader, whom I trust to guide me on the path she sees fit. She seeks the best for her students, and as a mentor and visionary, she inspires those around her to do well.

What I took away from my interview with Sunny is that a leader does not just tell others what to do. They look out for those who listen to them, and they continuously seek out ways to help. They have goals, for themselves and for their students. They communicate clearly what they want, and they know what they want in the end, even if the road is rocky. A leader does not sit atop their people. They pull their weight equally alongside them, and they lead the way for everyone. They set examples for others, but every great leader has been led before, and that’s how they know how to be influential themselves.


“Hey! Let’s look at popular song content, rhyme schemes, structure, similarities and differences, musical accompaniment, and melodic and harmonic blending and try to make our own song based on a relatable topic with a catchy melody! Oh, and we only have a few weeks.”

Wow, that sounded a lot worse written down. But this, sadly, was our ZIP project in a nutshell. Katrina and I covered the topic of songwriting and conveying a message through song, and, although it wasn’t what we predicted the final product to be, it was better than we thought it might be.

For my portion of the project, I analyzed the rhymes, structure and nonverbal techniques of two (of my favourite) songs from different eras. I used my new knowledge of different rhyming styles to make my own analysis of the songs Ace of Hearts (by Zella Day) and Bohemian Rhapsody (by Queen). I started by listening to each song as an audio recording once, writing down thoughts and themes about it, and different word painting (where the music reflects the literal meaning of the text) techniques. I then looked at the lyrics-only version and marked down the different rhymes, structures, and other text techniques, focusing on the subject matter. Using both of my results, I checked how the music might help convey the theme of the song, since I had been once told that humans learn better when the information is reinforced verbally and/or put to music. After this, I consulted my results with the website for both songs (Ace of Hearts and Bohemian Rhapsody) and made some new revisions.

On to the song production. This was the hardest part. With analysis, there was an “end”, or a point where I knew I was finished. Writing it ourselves, however… aside from choosing a theme/subject, we had to get the timing just right to match the text and music, and make sure that when read aloud, the lyrics didn’t sound too awkward (MISSION: FAILED). We approached this by writing the lyrics, melody (Katrina’s job) and chords (my job) first, then matching them up. I feel like although this was a good method, we should have focused more on the lyrics than making an “impressive” musical part (this is an English project after all). Our subject was inspired by an actual friend (our attempt at making the lyrics relatable), and we tried to use lots of imagery. After all, song lyrics are similar to poetry, right? Well, yes, that is true, but I realize now, song lyrics require “white space”, which I use to describe breaks in the text where only instrumentals are heard. Ours was a bit packed in, with little pockets of white space here and there.

We wrote the lyrics quite a while before the project was done, but trying to match a harmony with the melody proved to be very difficult, especially this was our first try at songwriting, and we tried to squish too many lyrics in to get our point across. The basic chords fit fine, but the countersubject of the accompaniment… definitely embarrassing.

Overall, I enjoyed songwriting. I feel like we could have made it a little bit more our own, since (while writing the lyrics) we tried to use subject matter that was more relatable for others than ourselves. Although the music industry nowadays is all about production and consumption (and $$$), we could have made this more personal. I would definitely want to expand on this project. Katrina and I both have a musical background, and with more care and time, I think we could have made a much more impressive product that reflected our true styles while still making the song engaging. NOTE TO SELF: Actually get song lyrics recorded next time…

The bolded words indicate the different sections of the song, and spaces in between the lines indicate breaks in the lyrics.

[Verse 1:]

When I first met you I thought you would be nothing to me

But now when I see you, it gets a little harder to breathe

Though I know that it will never be

I wish that you would look at me

[Pre chorus:]

You keep pouring honey in my ears

But I keep listening to my fears

I hope that one day you will see

How much you really mean to me

I want a love, a love with you

Even though we should be through

It hurts without your presence

And even when I want to leave

You keep pulling me back to you

[Verse 2:]

Seeing you every day

Is a blessing and a curse

Watching you smile at me,

Makes my heart want to burst

My love for you is like gasoline

Toxic and bad for me

But every time I try to leave

You pull me back with words so sweet


I want a love, a love with you

But breathing under your waters is getting hard to do

I’ll be stuck here forever, if I don’t move

But I don’t want to lose you

[Repeat Chorus]

Antoine Lavoisier, Chemist Under Pressure

Jan 1, 1789

I’ve done it! My first chemistry book has been successfully published, and well timed too. Change has been sweeping over the land… It seems to spell trouble for us scientists, and I’m rather worried. Sciences these days have been taking a backseat to all religion and politics. I realize those are two upcoming issues, but science is just as important. Especially since, although I am a tax collector, I choose to distance myself from political matters, meaning my sciences are made even more obsolete. I do hope that the success of my first chemistry book publication lasts long enough for me to get some recognition. My dear wife, Marie-Anne Paulze, has been helping out as well, helping me revise my notes, but I worry that both of us will be in trouble soon, as both of us are scientists, and of noble class. Hopefully, all this political noise will die down, and not turn into anything major. God help us if this sparks political conflict, because we, and the rest of our fellow nobles, are in trouble if this comes true.

As a scientist, I merely want to continue my studies. I have been revolutionary in this field so far, and I wish for my name to continue being known for that. The only thing that I have to worry about now is the current political upheaval… but that’s not where my priorities lie. Let us now revel in the fact that I have finished publishing Traité élémentaire de chimie, and today, science has had one success.

What can I say? There’s nothing I can do to change the fact that things are going to be happening, exactly what, I cannot predict. I will continue my studies, and hope for the best that I will remain important for years to come.

Jan 1, 1791 

The development of the metric system is well under way, working alongside colleagues such as Pierre-Simon Laplace and Adrien-Marie Legendre. However, the present situation is getting out of hand. The French Revolution has broken out, and times are becoming increasingly dangerous for us, especially us of aristocratic class, as the Revolutionists believe that we are the problem. I have tried, as hard as I could, to stay out of these matters, but now I seem to be roped in regardless.

Aug 8, 1793

A revolutionary judge stated that Revolutionary France has no need for scientists, and that is becoming more and more true as we speak. Today, revolutionaries shut down the French Academy of Sciences, and that is where I stamp my foot in disapproval. Science has done nothing, nothing at all (!), to harm France! It has, in fact, helped it greatly, and has furthered progress! I alone have made advancements and discoveries that have made an impact on the scientific world.

These revolutionaries don’t know what they’re doing. They are getting in the way of our then-peaceful lives, and have completely ruined all order and peace. There are different social classes for a reason. I find myself more and more involved in political matters these days, no matter how hard I tried to stay away. Is there anything now that is not swamped by politics? Can you walk the streets without hearing whispers of conflict and change?

Maybe this is happening for a reason, but for now, I am focusing on myself, science, and the greater good, if there is even such a thing anymore.

Final Address: Keeping Your Head on Your Shoulders

So this is how it ends.

I, Antoine Lavoisier, nobleman, chemist, and tax collector, will not close my eyes. All my life had crumbled around me during the Reign of Terror, and now, even with all my power taken from me, I will not cower under control of the executioner, for I will die with pride.

But all this damage, all the terror, and for what? The Terror achieve nothing, in fact, it was detrimental; a step backwards. All the killing, the public executions… including mine, soon to come. Is this a lack of humanity, or is this what humanity has been degraded to? What did the revolutionaries think they would achieve by shutting down the science academy? I have been branded a traitor for my work, but no, those simpletons do not understand that science is not defiance against progress, it IS progress. Politics, religion… these have run rampant throughout the Revolution, but science has been underestimated. What can I say? I tried to keep out of politics, but I was dragged in. Looking back, maybe I should have done more. Should have fought back. Should have tried to flee, even.

Yes, I adulterated the nation’s tobacco with water, and supplied France’s enemies with money from the national treasury. But my importance to the nation, to science, is irreplaceable. My wife, alone after my death, will continue my work, but it will not be the same.

I realize now, in my final hours, it is what we humans have created that has destroyed us. I will not close my eyes. I will not quake in fear of my already decided fate. I will stare into the faces of the crowd, of those who deemed me a traitor, think that my work as tax gatherer was treason. In the name of science, of the fallen, and for the greater good (whatever that is, anymore), I, Antoine Lavoisier, die an unjust death, but at least I won’t be here to see the ruin that follows.

Socials Midterm (AKA Mimi Crying and Dying, But What Else is New?)

(A real picture of me here after technical difficulties destroyed the 2000 words that made me cry and die.)

Ah yes, the icing on top of the cake. For my Socials Midterm, I decided to focus on the big idea, “The physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change”. Of course, who’s to say that the Socials Midterm is a bad thing? It requires higher-level thinking, experience, and of course, lots of unanswerable questions (like every other open-ended question in Social Studies).

“The physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change”. At first, I felt like this was a digestible enough topic, and that with enough care and time, I would be able to create my own understanding of this. After writing, re-writing, and finally revising the notes I scribbled that day, I realized how difficult this topic was. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a solid enough understanding of the topic, no—it was that there were so many different topics and themes explored throughout the first half of Social Studies that I felt overwhelmed by all the possibilities I had, such as The Trial of the King, the Niqab Issue, Christopher Columbus, Canadian Government, etc. The thing about “the physical environment” was that it related to many (most) of the topics we discussed, and could be incorporated into intangible things as well, such as law and justice, if you connected it to the unlawful act, the final physical result of a trial, etc. Another thing I noticed was that, in most cases, political, social, and economic change could be related. Political change resulted in different relationships and communications, affecting the social aspects of things. Political change also affected economy, in terms of taxation laws and trade. In the same way, social and economical changes were related, especially where trade and other foreign relations were concerned. The physical environment could change economics (e.g. areas of consumption, types of resources bought/sold, currency where materials were involved), social aspects (e.g. foreign communications, or even something as simple as global events sparking interest on social media) and politics (e.g. the death/impeaching of a political power resulting in new laws, reign and power), all of which could be related (and for better or for worse).

Like the Trial of the King, for instance: I considered the execution of King Charles and Cromwell’s rise to power physical events, both of which affected the economy, society, and of course, politics. Assuming a role on the panel of judges, I had an unusual viewpoint over the trial. I could see where both the prosecution and defense were coming from, regardless of the real-life outcome. At the end, when Charles’s fate was decided, I found myself wondering, what really would have happened if Charles had stayed in power? When he died, would his policies continue, or would his successor choose to eliminate some of Charles’s ideologies? Would the world be different had King Charles lived, or would the world manage to get to where it is now? Literally no one will ever know.