In-Depth #4

In my last meeting with Jiwon, we discussed my presentation for In-Depth Night. I wanted to do a medley of a few songs that people know and like, so we discussed putting together some fun Disney songs for the presentation. I’m also still working on the three-octave G major scale, the open-string tone exercise, and the Judas Maccabaeus chorus from my friend’s Suzuki book.

The Judas Maccabaeus chorus from the Suzuki book is the most complex song I’ve played so far. It involves some tricky string crossing, slurs and other articulations, and sections with quarter notes mixed with quicker eighth notes that require some finger dexterity. I’m still working on getting all the notes in tune, especially for the parts where I have to move my hand faster and my fingering tends to get messy. Playing the slurs is also new; Jiwon instructed me to play the slurs in one bow stroke, so I have to remind myself to do that when I play.

The third octave of the G major scale actually sounds a lot better now (after a few weeks) than when I started. I’ve gotten more familiar with the fingering pattern and finding the notes, so I don’t have to fumble as much to play in tune. However, the tuning and tone get trickier in the last few highest notes of the scale. Max’s useful tips were to keep the bow close to the bridge of the violin and watching the hand positioning. I found that keeping the bow closer to the bridge definitely helped; it prevented the tone from sounding too thin as the notes went higher. I still have to work on the hand positioning, though. I find it tricky to keep the lower fingers in place when I stretch my pinky finger to the last two notes (F# and G). The last notes still tend to be out of tune, but I’m happy with how far I’ve come so far.

As for the presentation, my plan is to pick three Disney songs and put them together in a mashup or medley. I think it would work well to accompany myself on piano or guitar depending on the song so there’s something in the background to ground everything. Some of my song ideas were “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Jiwon and I looked around a bit online and found sheet music for “Part of Your World” in a manageable key (E minor/G major).

One of the videos I was inspired by:

 

Questions

What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far? Why? 

The most difficult mentoring challenge so far has been finding time to meet, because both of us have pretty busy schedules; finding times when both of us are free is challenging sometimes. Most of our meetings so far have been after block five in the band room, which works well when we’re both free. However, sometimes we’re not both free. In that case, I go to Jiwon’s house after dance or once we’re free. Sometimes that doesn’t work either, though. But usually, we can fit in a meeting at least every one to two weeks.

What is working well? Why? 

Jiwon says that I’m learning fast, which I kind of have to, since In-Depth is only five months. The previous music experience helps, and I’m enjoying this In-Depth more than last year’s because of the cool novelty that violin has, being a new instrument to me. Fortunately, the violin’s being new and exciting means that I’ll be excited about learning it at least for the first few months, or the duration of In-Depth. It’s also been great to have a mentor who’s already done In-Depth before and has some previous insights about the process. The process of meetings and progress blog posts with mentoring questions can come off as unfamiliar to mentors who have not been through it before. Since Jiwon has already experienced In-Depth herself, she can better help me with the process.

What could be working better? How can you make this happen? 

I have to practice. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time and my motivation tends to fluctuate a lot; sometimes I don’t practice at all for almost up to a week, and sometimes I feel super motivated and cram practice. My nice, structured practice routine that I developed at the start of the project has fallen apart a little and turned into a free-for-all. I have more time to practice now, during the break, but I still have to set aside time each day to practice. I don’t know if it would help to stick to the structured schedule for practicing that I came up with earlier, because I don’t really want to; I found that I would much rather practice what I feel like practicing in the order that I want to practice it in on any given day. This is a much more chaotic way to go about it than the clean, organized schedule, and I could risk just putting off whatever I don’t want to practice, which I definitely want to avoid. I’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

In-Depth #3

February 5 meeting 

In my session on Wednesday, I continued working on my current skills and exercises, and learned the A major scale, which sounds like this, and a variation on Twinkle Twinkle. 

According to Jiwon, my bowing and tone have improved a lot since last week. For the most part, I can play with a more consistent sound. However, something that I should still work on is making sure to place my left fingers in the right place so that the notes are in tune. When I play the G major scale, the C on the A string tends to be out of tune. 

The pattern for the fingerings is based on the combination of whole tones and semitones that make up the scale or the song. For example, a major scale in any key has the pattern tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. So, to play the semitone between B natural and C on the G major scale, the third to fourth degree, my index and middle fingers should be touching when I place them on the fingerboard. I tend to leave more space between them, meaning the notes are out of tune. 

The variation for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that I learned on Wednesday consists of the same notes and melody, but with a different rhythm. My main goal is to keep my upper arm as still as possible, and bow mostly from my forearm. Jiwon suggested practicing in front of a mirror so I can tell if my upper arm is moving or not. The point of this exercise is to improve my bowing technique and tone. 

 

Questions 

  1. What went well 

Something that went well was my practice routine and how it allowed the mentoring sessions to go more smoothly. I did my best to practice consistently throughout the week. I’d taken the time to familiarize myself with the new content, so I was prepared for the meeting. Jiwon also said that my tone had improved a lot since last week, so it’s going quite well in terms of preparing for each meeting. I will do my best to keep up this practice routine, and hopefully continue to improve! 

  1. Challenges 

One of the main challenges is deciding what aspects of playing the violin to focus on in the limited timeframe of the project. Mainly, I have been working on basics such as tone, tuning, and bowing technique. I have yet to fully delve into other concepts like dynamics and vibrato, which usually come later in the violin journey. While people can spend their lifetime mastering the violin, I have less than five months. So far, my meetings have been focused on developing a solid foundation before I move on to more complicated techniques. 

  1. Factors affecting communication 

For the most part, communication for me and Jiwon has been working well. I can ask clarifying questions and we arrange meetings that work for both of our schedules. One of the challenges is communicating what my current “base” in terms of knowledge and experience is. I have a decent understanding of music theory, so I just need Jiwon’s help in filling in gaps only applicable to the violin. For example, I know how major and minor scales and chords work, so I can focus on honing my violin technique. It took some checking in to confirm what I’ve learned or haven’t yet learned. 

 

February 11 meeting 

Jiwon put tape on my violin. The tape shows the first two whole tones and a semitone on each string. My first impression was that they were kind of distracting. They helped sometimes, but when I was supposed to play different notes than the ones that were taped, the tapes just threw me off. Hopefully I’ll get used to them eventually and my notes will be more in tune. 

I also learned about the concept of shifting. Shifting means that instead of only keeping my hand only in the first position, close to the scroll, I move my hand further up the neck. I learned the third octave of the G major scale this way. The left hand moves from the index finger on the first tape to the index on the third tape, then to just above the fourth tape. 

We also talked about how to create dynamics. The four main factors for how loud or quiet the violin sounds are the bowing speed, the length of bow used, pressure on the string, and vibrato.  

 

February 20 update 

It’s been about a week since my last meeting. I’m getting a little more used to the tapes by now. It’s less distracting and more helpful for knowing where to put my fingers, meaning my notes are slightly more in tune! 

This week, I met with my violin-playing cousin Dorice to see if she had any helpful tips. I borrowed some Suzuki books from my friend Melody, who also plays the violin. The books had lots of simple melodies and exercises to practice, so I showed it to Dorice. 

Dorice had some helpful advice, some of which overlapped with Jiwon’s. She encouraged me to move the bow faster and use more of the length of the bow. This makes the tone clearer. Dorice also introduced me to the idea of avoiding the use of open strings. The sound of the violin on an open string versus when you’re pressing down the string is different; generally, a fingered string sounds better and allows for vibrato. This was still quite challenging and awkward, so I will probably still be using open strings for a while. 

In addition, she encouraged me to make sure that I use the right finger for the right tape. It helps to keep my hand more spread out and in the general area where I am going to place my finger on the fretboard. I tend to curl up the fingers that I’m not currently using, which means when I change notes, I have to readjust my hand.

It’s been a fun and interesting In-Depth so far; stay tuned!

In-Depth #2

This week, I met with my mentor, Jiwon, a grade 12 Gleneagle student, TALONS alumna and strings player. 

In our first meeting on Tuesday, Jiwon showed me the two-octave G major scale which goes from the lowest string (G) to the second finger on the highest string. It is a bit of a challenge to place my left fingers in the right places to play the notes in tune, but I am sure this will get much easier with some practice. The scale actually helped me a lot with familiarizing myself with the left hand position and the tuning of the notes.

 The main challenge that I am working on currently is my bowing technique, mainly keeping my bow straight and preventing it from sliding from side to side while bowing. For the best sound, the bow should be moving perpendicular to the string to maximize the amount of friction. Letting it slide in a direction parallel to the string makes a scratchy, wavering sound. Jiwon taught me an exercise to help with this. I set a timer for one minute, then bow back and forth on an open string focusing on keeping the bow aligned in the right position until the minute is up. The exercise sounds boring and simple, but it was more challenging than I originally thought. Even though it’s just bowing back and forth over and over, it still gives me a lot to think about. Especially on the E string, which is the highest and closest to my right arm, the bow tends to slide around even if I actively try to keep it in the correct place. This is definitely a skill I will continue to work on. 

Questions 

How did my mentor gain her experience/expertise? 

Jiwon has been playing the violin since grade three, and the viola since grade eight. She is also part of the Vancouver Symphony Youth Orchestra, takes private lessons, and plays in a quartet. She enjoys playing in groups and with friends, and gives performances with her quartet at venues like senior homes. 

What were these experiences like for my mentor? 

Two important details that Jiwon described from these experiences were the importance of honing and developing skills, and the value of music and performing. Jiwon aims to practice two hours each day, which takes a lot of commitment and dedication. Learning any discipline, including an instrument, does not happen overnight; “mastering” a skill requires patience and persistence. She also learned the value of music through her performances with her quartet. She found that music could really brighten people’s days and make them happy. 

What wisdom have I gained from my mentor so far? 

Some wisdom that I have gained from my mentor and other musicians is the practice and dedication that goes into learning an instrument. The violin is considered to be quite a refined instrument, and several people have told me that it is a challenging instrument to even make a proper sound on. It takes a lot of work, dedication, practice, and patience. I think that, going forward with In-Depth, these ideas will be helpful to keep in mind if I have to remind myself to be patient with my progress. 

What have I learned in terms of facilitation strategies that might contribute to my own development as a mentor? 

Some facilitation strategies I have learned that might contribute to my own development as a mentor are getting an impression of my mentee’s previous experiences and what they do or do not know, and observing specific challenges that the mentee comes across and providing specific advice and strategies to help overcome them. Before starting to play, Jiwon asked about what previous experience I had with music; since I have already learned about basic theory and sight reading, Jiwon doesn’t need to worry about teaching me that.  

So far, I’ve had a productive and fun In-Depth. I look forward to continuing to learn about violin! 

Introducing In-Depth 2020

For my second and final In-Depth, I am going to learn how to play the violin. 

What? 

This will include: 

  • Bowing and plucking
  • Correct note fingerings 
  • Violin care and maintenance 
  • Tone quality 
  • Tuning 
  • Vibrato and other effects 
  • Dynamics, articulation, phrasing 

Why? 

I really like music. Playing instruments has been a major part of my life since I was young, from learning piano to guitar to, most recently, saxophone and trombone. Music, for the most part, makes me happy and generally makes the people around me happy as well. In addition, I find that playing a variety of different instruments to be a rewarding experience, as it allows the chance to view the same songs, same notes, and same overall concepts from different perspectives. The violin is quite different from the other instruments I play; it has no keys, no mouthpiece, no reed, and no frets. So, I think that learning to play the violin will be a fun, exciting challenge and overall a great time. 

Who, when, where, how? 

  • Mentors 
    • Sharon Fong, violin teacher at Salina Cheng Music Academy (first lesson next week) 
    • Wayne Lin, violin-playing uncle (not main mentor, lives in Ontario) 
    • Doris Lee, violin-playing cousin 
  • When/where 
    • Most of my practice will be at home, or during CL at school, except for lessons with Sharon 
    • From now to In-Depth night, I will try to practice 40-60 minutes each week, outside of mentor meetings 
  • How 
    • Research: reading about violin theory, listening to other violin players 
    • Asking my mentors questions as needed 
    • Asking mentors and family/friends for feedback 
    • Breaking down the points in What? into manageable steps 
    • Practice 

 

Progress, so far

Last week, I rented a 4/4 (full size) Yamaha violin at Tom Lee. I also received a small block of rosin with it, which is used to give the bow better grip on the strings, and I purchased a shoulder rest to make playing more comfortable. 

While I was in Ontario over winter break, my uncle, who plays the violin, showed me some of the basics on his violin. I learned how to tune the violin by pulling out, turning, then pushing in the pegs, and fine-tuning the pitch with the screws at the bridge (at the bottom of the violin). I can hold the bow with a relaxed hand, between my thumb and middle finger with my other fingers curled around the bow. I can hold the violin between my shoulder and the side of my jaw on the chin rest. Not surprisingly, actually playing is the tricky part. 

My uncle showed me some of the songs he played at his recitals when he was around my age and taught me how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. 

I thought that it was pretty exciting to be able to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the violin! However, after a bit more research, I realized that my technique in this video is not that great, in particular, my bowing technique. The proper way to bow is to keep your elbow and wrist at about the same level (https://www.wikihow.com/Use-Exquisite-Bowing-Techniques-on-a-Violin). As seen in the video, on the low strings (G and D), I tend to play with my wrist much higher than my elbow. This is likely the cause of some of the bad tone quality, and I will make sure to pay attention to this issue going forward.

Another challenge that I anticipated and noticed immediately was that there are no frets, so I had a vague idea of where to put my fingers on the neck to produce the right notes. As seen in this chart, the notes seem straightforward; however, playing them correctly is easier said than done. 

violin_fingering_chart

(https://bit.ly/2Th7kdO)

This is why, at some parts, the melody sounds off-key. I often find myself playing the notes slightly flat, placing my finger too close to the scroll (top) of the violin. Playing all the notes correctly will take some more practice to get right.

Overall, this is a good start to my in-depth and I am excited to see where this project goes!

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CLE: Interview Statements

I interviewed a pathologist at Royal Columbian Hospital. Here are three thesis statements I took away from my conversation with her:

  1. You have to be careful enough to complete a task well, but not so anxious about making mistakes that you are too paralyzed to do anything at all.
  2. If you like several different careers, figure out what you like to do outside of your career and pick a career that best allows you to have that in your life.
  3. You can do a lot of good for a lot of people by just encouraging them to take better care of themselves.

English: Eminent 2019 Introduction

“The sun is setting with no road ahead,
In vain I weep for loss of country …
Although I die yet I still live,
Through sacrifice I have fulfilled my duty.”

– Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin was a feminist poet and revolutionary martyr who defied expectations at every turn and was willing to put her life on the line to fight for what she believed was right. She believed that women’s rights and political revolution went hand-in-hand and advocated for both of these causes. 

Growing up as a woman in 19th century China came with a set of restrictive expectations. As a child, Qiu Jin was born into a family of the gentry, received a good education, and dreamed of becoming a recognized poet. She even got to ride horses and practiced with the sword. However, her gender became a major obstacle for her. From a young age, she had no choice but to bind her feet, learn needlework, and eventually enter an arranged marriage. At the age of nineteen, she was married against her will to a wealthy merchant. Her marriage made her extremely unhappy; her self-confidence was damaged, and she abandoned her dreams of becoming a poet. 

When she moved with her husband to Beijing, Qiu Jin was able to find more freedom. She made friends with like-minded women, unbound her feet, read feminist writings, and took more interest in China’s politics. She believed that China needed a Republic instead of an emperor. But meanwhile, her marriage was still taking its toll. Her husband gambled and drank heavily; the more educated she became, the more she noticed that her husband was uncultivated and had no interest in learning. She realized that she could not help her country politically nor socially within the confines of the traditional marriage and family. This motivated Qiu Jin to leave her husband and two children to pursue an education in Japan. This poem that she wrote in 1904 sums up her thoughts on the experience:

“Regrets: Lines Written En Route to Japan”

Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark,
Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us?
Jewelry sold to pay this trip across the seas,
Cut off from my family I leave my native land.
Unbinding my feet, I clean out a thousand years of poison,
With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits.
Alas, this delicate kerchief here,
Is half stained with blood, and half with tears. 

Here, she enrolled in Shimoda Utako’s Women’s Practical School. Qiu Jin became vocal about women’s rights, speaking out against foot-binding and advocating for improved access to education for women. She also connected with other reform-minded students and joined anti-Qing secret societies like the Restoration Society and Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance. She edited a journal called the Vernacular Journal (Baihua Bao). Upon returning to China, she started the Chinese Women’s Journal (Zhongguo Nubao). Through these two journals, she spread her message of both national and women’s liberation. 

In 1907, she became the principal of the Datong Sports Teachers’ School. In fact, it was a front for the military training of revolutionary leaders. At this time, she also worked with her cousin, Xu Xilin, to unify the various rebel groups. But after he was betrayed by another rebel and executed, Qiu Jin knew that imperial officers would be coming to her school. She tried to fight back, but ultimately failed; she was captured and executed. Although she did not live to see the fall of the Qing dynasty, her work and her brutal execution strengthened China’s resentment of the Qing government.

I was drawn to Qiu Jin’s story not only because of her actions, but also because of her complete dedication to her goals no matter the odds. Even though it would have been so much easier to go along with what was expected of her as a woman, she rejected the norms because she felt that they were injust to her and all other Chinese women. Right to the last days, even though she knew imperial officials were coming to her school, she refused to run. Instead, she stood her ground to the very end. 

A quality that I think we share is our indignation when we see or experience injustice. When we see something that we know is not right, we both want to do something about it. However, she had more courage to actually take bold action, which is one of the qualities I aspire to emulate. I also want to emulate her resilience when facing obstacles and her devotion to her goals. By all accounts, she faced many challenges and difficulties throughout her life, whether in the form of an unstable government or stifling gender roles. None of these obstacles stopped her from fighting for what she believed in. She was so devoted to her goals that she believed it was not enough to just ask for equality. Qiu Jin was devoted to the point of being willing to put her life on the line and die a martyr. These qualities also exemplify my goals in TALONS this year; while the TALONS program does not require any imperial executions or involve toppling any governments, everyone has to face their own challenges and work towards their own goals. Qiu Jin’s courage, resilience, and devotion are qualities that can be applied to anyone’s objectives, whether a high school student or a revolutionary. 

A comparison: 

Qiu Jin  Jasmine Wong 
Chinese  Chinese-Canadian 
Woman  Woman 
Expressed her thoughts through poetry and journalism  Expresses thoughts through poetry/writing 
Faced oppressive gender roles, subjugated to arranged marriage and foot-binding  Grateful to live without those gender roles thanks to people like her 
Cared about the injustice in the world and took action  Cares about the injustice in the world and wants to take action 
Fought against all odds for the causes that she believed in, eventually sacrificing her life  Aspires to emulate her bravery and resilience 
Feminist  Feminist 
Revolutionary  Not a revolutionary (at least for now) 

 

One of the barriers I might have to connecting with her is that she lived in China and Japan, and I have lived in Canada my whole life. Much of her eminence is connected to her effort to better her country, which isn’t really my country. I have not been directly affected by the government that she sought to reform. The simplest way to address this would probably be to make my research detailed enough to put myself in her point of view and try to see her government as though it were my own. It also helps that we have the same ethnic background. Second, she faced more resistance because of her gender. Since the 19th century, we have come a long way in terms of women’s rights. While I do not face the same obstacles that she did based on her gender, I am able to appreciate firsthand the positive impacts that she fought for. It is more complicated to find a more concrete way around this barrier, but it may just be a given since we live in different times. 

For the next step in my research, I want to get a better understanding of the big picture. I will find out more about the context of what she was fighting for, as well as exactly who and what she was fighting against. To do this, I will need to research some background information on the Qing dynasty and the political and social climate of late 19th and early 20th century China. It would also help to read some more of her poems; this may be challenging because there aren’t many poems available, especially on account of her early death, but a primary source would offer valuable insight into what her life was like. 

To this day, Qiu Jin is a symbol of national and women’s independence in China whose bravery, determination, and eminence will not be forgotten. I hope that her story captivates the audience of Night of the Notables the way it captivated me! 

Planning: University Comparisons (Biochemistry)

  University of British Columbia  University of Toronto  University of Victoria 
Prerequisites 

Grade 12 requirements 

  • English Studies 12 or English First Peoples 12 
  • Pre-Calculus 12 (minimum 67%) 
  • Anatomy and Physiology 12 (Biology 12), Chemistry 12, or Physics 12 

Grade 11 requirements 

  • Any English Language Arts 11 or any English First Peoples 11 
  • A language 11
  • Chemistry 11 
  • Physics 11 
  • Pre-Calculus 11 or Foundations of Mathematics 12 

 

General: 

High School Diploma with 6 Grade 12 academic courses, including English Studies 12 or English 12 or English 12 First nations 

Biochemistry program: 

Biology 12, Calculus 12, Chemistry 12, English 12, Physics 12 recommended 

 

For all science programs:
Approved English 11
Pre‑calculus 11
Chemistry 11
Physics 11
English Studies 12 or English First Peoples 12 with at least 67%
Pre‑calculus 12 with at least 67%
Two approved science 12 courses 
Cost  Educational costs for first year (including tuition, student fees, books and supplies): $7 761.22 

Living costs (on-campus, shared room, including meal plan, technology, health insurance, personal costs, move-in costs): $15 334.00 

Total: $23 095.22 

Sep. – Apr.: 

Tuition and fees: 

$7 700.00 

Housing and meal plan: $12 587.66 

Yearly textbooks and course supplies:  

$1000 

Transportation, phone bill, health/personal care, other expenses: 

$442 

Total: $24 823.66 

For 2 terms – 

Tuition and books: 

$6 696 

Student society, athletics, bus pass, dental and health plans: $854 

Dormitory (economy double room with meal plan): $8 576 

Total: $16 117 

Reputation  THES Global Ranking 2020: 34th 

ARWU Global Ranking 2019: 35th 

US News Global Universities Ranking 2019: 29th 

Maclean’s Canada’s Best Universities by Reputation (2019): 3rd overall 

3,778 degrees granted in 2018 

214 companies spun off from UBC research 

 

Top school for reputation 2020 (Maclean’s) 

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020: 18th 

QS World University Rankings and the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) 2019-2020: 24th 

Times Higher Education: 16th in Canada 

CWUR World University Rankings 2018-2019: 363th (globally) 

Structure  Co-op and Honours  Co-op  Co-op and Honours 
Timeline  4 years  4 years  4 years 
Specializations  For second year, can specialize in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, microbiology and immunology  Biochemistry, other life sciences  Microbiology, immunology, biotechnology, epidemiology