In this week’s edition of Fellow Fridays, we speak with pianist Emily Rho, who attended the TSM Academy in 2011 & 2012. Since then, Emily has gone on to complete her Masters degree at the University of Toronto’s music program and become an in-demand Toronto based chamber musician and educator. Most notably, Emily is the co-director of Pocket Concerts, a popular concert company that brings classical music performances to intimate venues.
We recently spoke with Emily to discuss her beginnings with the piano, memories of the academy and goals for the future…
1. How old were you when you started studying music? What were some of your early influences?
I was about three or four years old when I started. I have no memory of my earliest lessons, but there are pictures of me banging on the piano as a toddler (sorry Mom and Dad!). My earliest musical influence was definitely my mom, who studied composition and piano in university. My mom is a very creative person with a vivid imagination, and I remember her sharing stories or choreography that she came up with for different pieces of music, regardless of genre. It was such a fun way to spend time as a child!
2. What was your experience like in the Toronto Summer Music Academy?
I was a Fellow at TSMA in 2011 and 2012. Going from practicing to rehearsals to concerts, my days were packed with chamber music from morning to night, and I found it thrilling and inspiring. I got to play some well known repertoire, such as the Brahms’ A major Piano Quartet, and lesser known but great repertoire, all with fantastic mentors and colleagues. It was also really convenient for me, because I live in Toronto!
3. What did you find to be the most valuable from your studies at the Toronto Summer Music Academy?
There are so many valuable lessons and memories I took away from my two summers at TSMA. One that really stands out to me now is learning to work well with different people in a short period of time. At TSMA, you are expected to be flexible and adaptable while playing at your best. I believe it’s a crucial skill set to develop as a chamber musician, and TSM is one of very few festivals in Canada where it’s a top priority.
4. Would you recommend the programs offered by the TSM to other musicians?
Absolutely. I think TSM is great for anyone who wants to have chamber music as a major component in their career and life. You get to play great repertoire with players from all sorts of background who may become your friends and colleagues well beyond the duration of the festival, and it’s one of very few of its kind in Canada.
5. Since attending the Toronto Summer Music Academy, what have you been up to?
Lots of things! I finished my Master’s in 2014 at University of Toronto, and since then I’ve been working full time. I play lots of chamber music, and I’m blessed to have such wonderful colleagues and friends to perform with on various different projects. As many people in the Toronto classical music community already know, I’m the co-director of Pocket Concerts, which presents high quality chamber music concerts in homes and offices all over Toronto. I run the series with my partner in business and in life, violist Rory McLeod, who is also an alumnus of TSMA. It’s a really great way to experience chamber music, and we are both continuously inspired by how the experience transforms everyone involved, both the audience and performers. I also teach privately and coach chamber music at the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at The Royal Conservatory, and I find the teaching experience fulfilling and humbling at the same time. I often accompany students at the Glenn Gould School and U of T for various projects the students might have at school. And last but not least, I recently formed a piano trio, the Penrose Trio, with two of my close friends and wonderful musicians, cellist Britton Riley and violinist Aaron Schwebel.
6. What are some of your musical goals for the future?
I love the variety in my career at this point, and I hope to be always exploring. My goal is to keep things fresh and love playing music for as long as I can, so I keep improving as a musician. Any specifics that might come along the way would be a stepping stone to fulfill the larger goal of improving as a musician.
7. Is there any music you’re listening to currently that you find really inspiring?
To be completely frank, I rarely listen to music in my free time. My days are filled with music from my own practicing, rehearsing, and teaching, and I often enjoy the silence or other life noises that might be happening at the time.
8. Where can people learn more about you?
Write me an email at email@example.com! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @rho_emily to see what my life is like from day to day, check out my website emilyrhopiano.com for promotional material. And visit pocketconcerts.ca to check out my concert series in Toronto!