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Interview with Lynn Yew Evers, September 2012
Interview with Lynn Yew Evers, image 1
I was introduced to the music of Lynn Yew Evers earlier this year when I received her Dawn of Peace CD to review. Produced by the legendary Will Ackerman, it is one of only a few solo piano albums to come out of the Imaginary Road studios, and I love it! A native of Malaysia, Evers has performed for the King and Queen of Malaysia as well as the Prime Minister on several occasions! Classically-trained from a very early age, Evers has a command of the piano as well as orchestration and arranging. She will be performing in concert here on October 27th (I can’t wait!), so this was a good time to do an interview.

KP: Hi Lynn! I’m getting really excited about your concert here on October 27th! What do you have planned for us?

LYE: I am excited to be part of your Mainly Piano artists and am looking forward to playing my own compositions from my two solo piano albums as well as some remarkable songs from The Great American Songbook and others.

KP: I’m sure you are the only artist I’ve interviewed who has done a command performance for heads of state! You have performed for the King and Queen of Malaysia as well as the Prime Minister. Tell us about it.

LYE: I was first invited to perform at the palace back in 1988. It was fun as well as educational for me as there are many strict rules to follow when one enters the palace, from carefully choosing the repertoire to wearing the right color attire, bowing and kneeling - a form of acknowledgement to the King and Queen. After bowing, one can only back up and leave - walking away with your back to them is prohibited. Interesting? The King and Queen liked my music a lot so subsequently I became their piano performer for many formal functions. Besides that, I was also invited to perform for the Prime Minister and delegates. (Malaysia was under the British Colonial so you would see many terms written in the British way.)

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KP: You must have some really interesting stories about your experiences at the palace! After performing for royalty, do other audiences seem less intimidating?

LYE: After each of my performances I meet and talk with members of the audience to get to know them a bit. I have been doing this for my entire career and have never really thought of an audience as intimidating or daunting. They are fellow music lovers who are there for the same reason as me - to enjoy good music.

KP: That’s a really great way to look at it! When did you leave Malaysia?

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LYE: I left Malaysia in November 2009.

KP: Was that when you got married?

LYE: Yes.

KP: Tell us a bit about your early life.

LYE: I was born and raised in Malaysia, a multi-racial tropical country in South East Asia. Learning three languages is mandatory in the education system so I have learned English, Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia since pre-school. Growing up in a strict cultural background, all work and no play is common in the society. When I decided to learn the piano, it was a commitment rather than a hobby, but that didn’t bother me because playing the piano is part of my life. Again, with the conservative culture, almost everybody there grew up with rules and consequences so it's not unusual that my early life was surrounded with school homework and piano practice! My parents are music lovers and they loved to dance to my piano music. I learned most of the Great American songs from them. I would improvise after listening to the music and they started to dance as soon as the music was played. With my brother on the violin and my sister playing percussion, this was the way we entertained the family on weekends - not too boring, actually.

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KP: So your brother and sister are also musicians?

LYE: My younger sister is also a pianist, but she is more into teaching than performing. My older brother plays the violin, so we pretty much grew up surrounded by music.

KP: When did you become interested in playing the piano?

LYE: I was given a toy piano at the age of 4. I discovered this black and white toy could actually make beautiful sounds so I begged my mom to buy me a "real" piano.

KP: When did you start piano lessons, and how long did you take piano lessons?

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LYE: During the early ‘70's in Asia, there were not many piano teachers around - especially in the city where I lived. It was even more difficult to find a piano. Because of my enthusiasm for that toy piano, my mom found a very old piano that was very bulky and heavy and found my first piano teacher for me at the age of 4. I took piano lessons for 16 years, all the way through college.

KP: Do you play other instruments in addition to piano?

LYE: I played a little flute during my high school days, but never mastered it.

KP: When did you compose your first piece?

LYE: I started composing when I was around 9 years old. I still remember the name of the song: " Two Little Black Birds." It was based on a poem that I learned in school.

KP: Do you also teach piano?

LYE: Yes, I have been teaching for 25 years.

KP: Wow! Almost as long as me! How many record albums have you recorded?

LYE: I have recorded two so far.

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Click on the cover above to read Kathy's review.
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KP: Will Ackerman produced your most recent CD, Dawn of Peace and is very enthused about your music. What made you decide to record at Imaginary Road Studios?

LYE: Well, it started off with an email I sent to Will regarding some production matters and he told me that he has produced many albums for pianists. (I knew very little when I first got to the US.) After some research, I decided to record my second album at Will's studio, and I had a great time working with him as well as his engineer.

KP: Do you plan to record there again?

LYE: Yes.

KP: Dawn of Peace is truly an exceptional solo piano album. Will your next album be solo piano, too?

LYE: Thank you for the kind words, Kathy. For my next album, I would like to have a trio or a quartet in some of my music. That's my plan.

KP: I’ve read that you are also exceptionally good at orchestration and arranging. What kind of work have you done in those areas?

LYE: I have done numerous chamber works with a lot of musicians before moving to the US. I created an ensemble of eight, combining Western and Eastern musical instruments - piano, cello, double bass, Er Hu (Chinese two-string violin), Gu Zheng (a plucked instrument), Chinese bamboo flute and percussion - that performed my orchestrations. This ensemble was invited to perform countless times for fundraisers, the King's birthday celebrations, dignitaries’ and delegates’ annual functions etc. I have also arranged songs from some renowned Malaysian singers for trio, quartet and a 35-piece chamber orchestra. Recording my arrangements in a radio station for more than two years brought me many opportunities to work with fine musicians in Malaysia.

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KP: What made you decide to study music in London?

LYE: As I mentioned earlier about British Colonial, people in Malaysia are greatly influenced by the British. We learn British English from a young age, we buy British imported food, and we even drive on the wrong side (left) of the road (my husband always teases me about that!), so pursuing a higher education in the UK is very common among Malaysians.

KP: Did you do much performing in Malaysia?

LYE: Yes, I did a lot of performing from the time I was nine until 2009 when I moved to the US.

KP: How does living in Washington State compare to living in Malaysia?

LYE: The weather! I grew up in a tropical country (Malaysia and Singapore are closest to the equator) so living in Washington with three feet of snow during the winter can be very challenging.

KP: Who are some of your favorite composers?

LYE: Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Ravel. Chopin, I love his impressive phrasings and harmony. Ravel, his insanity in tones and the mystery in his compositions.

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KP: I love Chopin, too! Who are some of your favorite performers?

LYE: Jim Brickman, David Foster, David Lanz, Itzak Perlman.

KP: That’s an eclectic group! What inspires you to compose?

LYE: When I was growing up, I had a monotonous style of piano lessons every week - scales and arpeggios were mandatory. Being a little rebellious, I liked to try new things so I began to "make" different tones on the piano. When I discovered the bird chirping, tinkling bells and even exorcist-like tones in my head and transcribed them into music notes, that's how I began to compose as a child. Throughout my high school years, I performed and composed extensively, but I also faced difficulties in the environment when I was growing up. People in Malaysia have a limited choice when it comes to music. Descriptive piano music or new age instrumental music aren't very acceptable in the society. Whenever I introduced my new music to my high school peers, I made them imagine what they would see and feel in my music. When I re-arranged the boring "Silent Night " to a jazzy feel, people at school started calling me "eccentric Lynn." That's how I grew up!

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KP: What has been your most exciting musical moment or experience?

LYE: There are many, but I think the most exciting moments were: as a guest conductor for the UK high school brass band; as a performer for the King and Queen, Prime Minister and dignitaries; and being the organizing chairperson for music events throughout the country.

KP: You often post amazing photos on Facebook of food you have cooked. Is cooking another passion of yours?

LYE: Yes. Coming from a Chinese, Thai and Peranakan (a minority ethnic group in Malaysia) heritage, I got to learn many authentic cuisines from my family. I have also created many different styles of cooking throughout all these years.

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KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?

LYE: Well, I would say; More opportunities to perform, to be able to build a fan base and to travel.

KP: What’s up next for you?

LYE: I am lining up a series of concerts for next Spring and Summer. I hope to cover four to five states.

KP: We’ll see you next month!

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To learn more about Lynn Yew Evers and her music, please visit her website and her Artist Page here on MainlyPiano.com.
Kathy Parsons
September 2012