Is this the real life? A piano cover of Queen's masterpiece.
Bohemian Rhapsody (arr. Thomas Yu)
Editor: Matthew Holdenried
I’m amazed by the overwhelming response to my asking this question: “If you studied classical music, did it positively affect your non-music career?” So many folks are still responding, wanting to sing the praises of music (see what I did there), not only in how music benefited them career-wise, but in other aspects of their lives. Most of us who studied music though, as kids, resented the practise time and argued with our parents. And that’s the catch: sometimes parents want to give up the fight and allow their kids to quit. Understandable, but I hope they encourage their children to hang in there: they WILL thank you later. Everyone I know whose parents allowed them to quit music all wished they weren’t allowed to give up. (In my family, quitting was NOT an option; get your Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music first – THEN we’ll talk.)
In this ongoing series, posted every week or so, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Today, let’s meet Thomas Yu. He is a periodontist who kept up his piano chops to a very high level – high enough that I actually forget he’s a medical professional – I keep thinking of him as a pianist who happens to do periodontal stuff on the side.
Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
I own a periodontal practice in Calgary, specializing in dental implants and gum surgery.
What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
I started piano lessons at age five in Saskatoon. According to my parents, I would watch my older sisters play, and when they would finish, I would hop on and mimic what they just played. It irritated them both, but it was a sign that I should start playing too. Also, many people don’t know this, but I also played trombone in the University of Saskatchewan Jazz Ensemble.
Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
I didn’t truly fall in love with playing until I was 17, when I started studying with Bonnie Nicholson. Throughout my university life, I thought about quitting my academic studies to pursue music. My struggle continued until the age of 23, when I eventually met my next piano teacher, Marc Durand. He encouraged me to finish my dental studies, and promised he would teach me thereafter in Toronto. He kept his promise and then taught me for the following eight years. I guess piano has always been a “serious” hobby.
Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
Deciding not to become a professional pianist was a very difficult choice, and I used to fight with my parents about it. But making the transition towards being an amateur pianist has opened up opportunities that I had not dreamed of before. Competing in amateur competitions, travelling the world for music, and meeting like-minded amateur pianists has been so rewarding. It turned out to be the best musical decision ever.
How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
There’s almost nothing in common with having your hands in someone’s mouth versus on the piano (insert “ivories” pun here). The surgical side uses my brain, while the musical side uses my gut and soul. In a way, they allow me to use all of my body’s energy.
Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
Absolutely! I thought with every new stage of life I would change the amount of playing, but instead I find myself playing more than ever. Now, having a little boy to raise, I will see how the next chapter of playing will pan out. He’s already trying to compete for time on the piano.
《波希米亞狂想曲》（英語："Bohemian Rhapsody"）是皇后樂團的一首歌曲，由佛萊迪·墨裘瑞所創作，最初版本收錄在專輯《A Night at the Opera》（1975年）中。本曲結構極為特殊，無重複的副歌，而是由幾個風格差異甚大的部分構成，包括謠曲、吉他獨奏、歌劇、硬搖滾等，並且充滿著猛烈的意識流與噩夢色彩。本曲在西方社會相當為人熟知，常被簡稱為「Bo Rhap」或「Bo Rap」。在當時，它是有史以來製作費最高的單曲，現在仍為流行音樂史上最精心設計的複雜作品之一。
▍2011年，美國插畫家弘穆司（Jon J. Muth）依據巴布狄倫（Bob Dylan）名曲《風中飄盪》（Blowin’ in the Wind）繪製同名繪本。民謠《風中飄盪》兼具社會意識與哲學深度，以劃過天空的砲彈隱喻戰爭；以簡單的＂men＂代指致力推翻不公的人們。詞曲未提任何具體事件或個人，僅清晰傳遞關於愛、正義與平等的純粹訊息。針對《風中飄盪》，巴布狄倫有不同唱法，有時滿懷希望與光亮，像看見紅氣球升空；有時則充滿懷疑與失落；像看見紅氣球被刺破。
▍2019年，弘穆司繪本《風中飄盪》（Blowin’ in the Wind）在台問世。弘穆司以孩童、紅氣球、紙飛機和民謠吉他貫穿全書，分別代指純真、希望、白鴿與反戰。弘穆司的《風中飄盪》觀點可說與《蒼蠅王》壁壘分明。繪本《風中飄盪》同樣將幾名兒童設定於田園山水，全書也無成人身影（除了監獄牆後向紅氣球招手的黑人囚奴們），然而一改《蒼蠅王》逼視人性劣根的路線，弘穆司將孩童群聚山丘或一同划舟，帶著自省眼光行經監獄、高牆、砲口與冰山，將紅氣球抱於懷中或飄立空中。在歌詞「要犧牲多少人，才明白太多生命消失在人間？」（Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows,That too many people have died?）這頁，孩子們更將紅氣球繫於象徵列強的加農砲口。細線如絲在風中飄盪，繫起一場善惡之間懸而未決的永恆角力。
▍最後，時間來到今天。12月10日是國際人權日，為你點播一首Bob Dylan的（Blowin’ in the Wind），也邀請你閱讀弘穆司繪本《風中飄盪》，看看孩子們如何飄揚、高掛、分享、珍視他們的紅氣球🎈