Growing up in Taiwan, music was part of Amber Yi-Wen Ho’s life.
“I don't really remember how I first got interested in music, I started learning when I was very little,” recalled Amber. “Music has been part of my life for a long time. Playing music is very natural for me. I found out this is the thing I want to do forever when I was in middle school.”
While Amber sort of absorbed music in general, when it came time to choose an instrument to specialize in, she made a conscious decision.
“Actually, when I went to music school, they told me I had to pick an instrument for the orchestra,” she said. “I only had two options: cello and bass. I liked the cello's sound better, so I picked the cello.” Amber also plays piano.
Being able to express emotions and tell stories through an instrument is what Amber loves about playing cello. It goes beyond just playing notes on a page, she said. She credits a college teacher with helping draw that special skill out of her.
“He taught me how to tell a story through music, how to express my thoughts and feelings through music,” she said. “He is a very passionate teacher. I learned how to be a real musician with him, instead of just playing music.”
Amber came to the United States to study music at Boston University. There, she earned a master’s degree in cello performance. She moved to New York two years ago.
“New York is a city full of opportunities,” Amber said. “I can always explore and learn new things here.”
One of those new things was musical theater. Compared to performing classical music, different areas of expertise are required, she found.
“To play musical theater works, that requires very good sight-reading skill, a good ear and the ability to cooperate with the composer, singer, and fellow musician,” said Amber. “I think good sight-reading skill is not necessary to play classical music because you usually have more preparation time to practice. But for music theater works, usually, we need to pick up the notes right away in first rehearsal.”
Amber said she definitely would like to perform more work in musical theater – and other genres as well.
“I used to play classical only, but since I moved to New York, I learned that I can do more than just classical,” she said. “So now I'm open to any kind of music.”