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UCI’s Musician Life With Alana Grace Lee 

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UCI’s renowned Claire Trevor School of the Arts Music Department has been around since  1965. The department has offered UCI beautiful music performances under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Pope, and opportunities for music-lovers to sit back and listen to genius musicians giving their all with each and every note they play. 

First-year music major Alana Grace Lee graced UCI’s stage with her delightful and significant presence in UCI’s 2023 Symphony Orchestra. Lee grew up “surrounded by the sounds of the piano playing while [doing] homework or waking up in the mornings on weekends.”

She has also been heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was an undergraduate piano student in her youth, inspiring Lee to pursue a working life in music. Lee said that her “grandmother was the one that actually decided for [her] to play, knowing that there weren’t many students that wanted to [study],” which then led to her current passionate pursuit for music. 

In order to explain her inspiration for her music style, Lee showed off her expertise on the oboe, offering a little history lesson on the origin of the oboe in an interview with the New University. She informs her audience that the wind instrument originated from Western Europe, and many of the most renowned oboe players come from that region. 

The oboe and clarinet are commonly confused for one another, and Lee offered insight to the subtle differences. While the oboe has two reeds and a rounded bell, clarinets only have a single reed and a flared bell. Therefore, the oboe produces a smooth and fluid sound with a warmer tone, whereas the clarinet produces a similar fluid sound with a larger range that extends a full octave above the oboe. 

Lee said, “Albrecht Mayer, a German oboist, has been one of my main inspirations for how I utilize my stylistic choices into my playing. Though the culture differentiates between American and European playing, I see it as a way to diversify my method of playing while applying the necessary techniques that I need to improve and develop as an oboist overall.”

The song that initiated her love for the oboe, and music in general, is “A Town With an Ocean View” from the Studio Ghibli movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” composed by Joe Hisaishi. She said that this specific solo practically asked her to pick up the oboe and, “play for others and [for her] family to hear, [and] it was the first influential song that [she] considered the oboe to be shown as fun and exciting to others that weren’t familiar with the instrument itself.”

As a first year jumping into UCI’s prestigious music program Lee said, “The social dynamic within the UCI orchestra is very welcoming and accepting of all instruments. I had many opportunities to talk to other first years along with upperclassmen, bringing me closer to other music and non-music students in and outside of the orchestra. Having my closest friends come from the orchestra as well, I’m grateful to have joined such a cooperative and honorable orchestra.” 

The music department also has a healthy balance between challenging the musicians’ abilities and supporting their individual stylistic musical choices. 

“Our director and conductor, Geoffrey Pope, was probably one of the most compassionate conductors I’ve had throughout my past experiences being in orchestra,” Lee said. “Not only did he like to push us and test our limits with difficult music, he understood that we were still students that had the same goal in mind: to have fun. Because he was also new to the 2022-23 school year, he made sure to get to know all his students that were a part of the orchestra, creating an inclusive environment for everyone to enjoy.” 

The supportive and delightful dynamic between the faculty and the music students go hand in hand, which inevitably produces frequent stunning performances that captivate the audience to actively listen and sway along with the flow of the music. 

After an intensive three hours of training twice a week, Lee was able to learn life lessons about self-discipline and self-sufficiency. 

“It was definitely something I had to commit myself to attending since it already started pretty late into the day after all my classes. I think especially as a first year, it took me quite a while to get acclimated to the orchestra and how it runs as a whole but it gave me the ability to adjust to change quicker and more efficiently in and outside of the orchestra,” mentioned Lee. “With a full year under my belt, I believe I learned so much from my peers and just being in the orchestra itself and I want to continue to bring those experiences with me for years to come.”

Although some non-musicians might assume that musicians are always on this musical high horse, constantly criticizing all the new music they hear around them and pointing out everything that non-musicians wouldn’t catch on to, Lee’s humble mindset keeps her grounded to be open to all interpretations of new music. 

Lee says, “I wouldn’t say that I’m constantly analyzing certain music that I listen to but if I was asked to analyze it, I wouldn’t mind! I definitely see and listen to music differently in a way where I notice more aspects of it but other than that, music is music.” 

Lee also provided some wise words about her newfound approaches to succeeding in studying music for prospective students who also desire to pursue music. With the intention of providing some helpful tips for potential music students at UCI, Lee said, “One piece of advice I would probably give them is to be prepared and practice beforehand but to also remember to enjoy yourself. Especially from experience, there were many times when I felt nervous or worried I wasn’t going to play well but remembered that the only person that was stopping me from playing my best was myself. Whether you’re nervous to play for an audition or in front of a large crowd, remember to just have fun and remind yourself why you want to play music in the first place.” 

Her motivation comes from the authenticity of her love for music, as well as the nostalgia that is attached to learning and producing beautiful music. 

Lee left the New University with some recommendations of her favorite songs and artists,  including work from Japanese artists Fujii Kaze and Yoasobi, as well as songs from Laufey — especially “Someone New.” 

With that insightful perspective on UCI’s Music Department, make sure to check out their page for concert or audition information, and get ready to hear more about one of the many great artistic gems that UCI offers. 

Cameryn Nguyen is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at camerynn@uci.edu.