It's Not Just Musicians
While many of the singers in the World Youth Choir this year study vocal performance or conducting, there are several with other passions or professions outside of music.
These singers choose to find a balance between these other pursuits and their music, ranging from training horses to practicing medicine. However, there is one thing they all agree on: music will always be a part of their life.
Benjamin Done from Canada, 24, likes to say he’s a cowboy by day, classical piano player by night. He’s passionate about horses, and works in a thoroughbred breeding barn.
He studies music at Laurentian University in Ontario, where he found out about the World Youth Choir. This is his first year in the choir.
Outside of his studies, he spends about half the year working with horses.
“Some of the other cowboys think it’s kind of funny. I come back in the spring and I say that I’m so out of shape because I’ve been at the piano all winter. You don’t hear that from many cowboys.
He also competes in horse riding competitions, though he stopped before coming to France in order to avoid injury. He loves being able to work outside, and loves the animals as well. When it comes to balancing his two passions, Ben says it’s difficult to find a middle ground between a traveling musician and sedentary cowboy.
“I’m sort of at that point in my life where I’m trying to decide which avenue I want to pursue.”
Right now, he finds time to work with horses in the summer when most choirs are on hiatus, but he still tries to continue practicing. Sometimes, he even admits to practicing music along to the drone of a tractor, and at his barn they sing to the horses as well.
“It’s been proven time and time again that when you study music, you have better excellence in sciences and maths and languages and they’re all tied together. I think it’s just one of those things that’s fundamental to humanity.”
Angela Yiu, 23, is from Hong Kong and is a dedicated medical student, taking exams right before she came to joining the choir in France. This is her third time singing in the World Youth Choir.
She discovered the choir looking for a good recording of this year’s conductor’s Salve Regina, and happened upon the World Youth Choir. She was inspired to become a member of the choir since there would be representatives from all over the world, so she contacted WYC alumnus in Hong Kong, and made it.
This is her final year in medical school, so by July 2020 she will be a doctor, if she passes all her tests, she adds. Both her parents are doctors, but her father sang in choirs and made sure that choral music was a major part of Angela’s upbringing.
“I think for me, choral singing has always been part of my life, because my dad brought it to me when I was four. I would say it’s the best thing he did for me, other than inspire me to be a doctor like him.”
She can’t imagine what her life would look like if she didn’t sing. Angela says that this other side of her, the choral singing side, helps her to understand the world and what happens in it locally and internationally.
“They all say that when you’re in med school, you don’t get time off to do stuff that isn’t medically related, which is partly true.
But I feel like we all have to make time for stuff we treasure.”
Music helps her to face the stress of medical school, and according to her, helps her to develop as a more complete person.
“I think music is a really universal language. I also find a relevance between music and medicine. In medicine, it requires a lot of hard work and perseverance, and I find that this part of me might have been trained from what I had learned in music.”
She emphasized the commitment that choral singing takes, and she sees a parallel between this and medicine, since you can’t give up halfway through a medical treatment. Angela thinks that these two things in her life played a big role in shaping who she is today.
There are others who have had more of a science focus in their time at university. Emanuele Petracco, 24, is from Trieste, Italy, and found out about the World Youth Choir through his conductor. This is his first year in the group.
He already has a bachelor's degree in physics, but now he is changing directions to study Renaissance and Baroque singing in a conservatory. He wanted to make the switch because he already sings a lot in his region, including singing in four ensembles.
“The more I practice, the more I want to be a part of this world.”
At a certain point, being an amateur chorister wasn’t enough for him, and now Emanuele wants to know the history behind the music and work on his vocal technique.
Despite many people emphasizing the importance of science over the arts, Emanuele thinks that there's more to pursuing a career simply because you're told to. He thinks people should follow their passions instead.
“If you like what you’re doing, you will succeed. You have to maybe try and try again, but if you like, you will keep on studying.”
He still loves physics, and he says it gave him the right mindset for studying and practicing music, and it helps him to look at things in a critical way that balances the emotional, passionate side of music.
“I have a perception of where I am, what I’m doing, and that’s what my bachelor in physics gave me.”