“There is nowhere else in the world you could possibly find such mentors like the faculty and staff in the Department of Music at Vanguard University.” Xiaoying (Jenny) Chen, Class of 2015
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to attend Vanguard University?
Hi, my name is Xiaoying (or Jenny) Chen. I am from China, and was born and raised in Guangzhou, where my family still lives. In the second year of high school, I was looking for a college music program that would embrace the Christian faith, which was impossible to find in China. I had the privilege to attend the Vanguard Singers and Band’s performances in Guangzhou in both 2005 and 2008, and thought how awesome would it be, if one day, I could worship with them. I heard about the Vanguard University Music Department from Dr. Melton’s parents Jim and Bonnie, who had been in China for over 30 years as missionaries. I wanted to give a special thank you to Dr. Melton and his family here, through whom God had opened the door and enabled me to come to Vanguard University.
Q: Tell us about a great experience or opportunity you’ve had here in the Department of Music.
I was truly amazed by the program and how much the professors cared about us. There is nowhere else in the world you could possibly find such mentors like the Vanguard faculty and staff. Mrs. Dovel had been such a great support to me, as well. I am really thankful God had started my “U.S. journey” from Vanguard, or I couldn’t be able to adapt and adjust to such a new culture in a short time. I was able to develop many incredible relationships with the professors from the music department over the past four years, and I know they would always be supportive of me in my career.
Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned here?
The most valuable lesson I learned here is NEVER GIVE UP. There were many fun and easy times, but there were also some hard times when things were falling apart. I had made many mistakes and had lots of regretful moments that I wished I had handled them differently. I had thought that I could never make it, or I am not talented enough to survive in music. The only thing I could do was keep paddling! If God had not yet quit on me (and He never will), why should I? It was hard, but I have to keep reminding myself take a breath and just move on.
Q: Where are you now? Why did you decide to go to graduate school to pursue a Master of Music degree?
I am now pursuing a Master degree in Viola Performance at Carnegie Mellon University, getting ready to enjoy the cold Pittsburgh winter. A special thank you to Sorah Myung, my private instructor, who had truly encouraged and prepared me to pursue a higher degree. I am really thankful for this opportunity. I know there is so much room I could grow and learn in music. This two year program would enable me to become a better musician.
Q: What advice do you have for incoming students?
As your sister in Christ, I could say: please read your Bible daily and pray daily. Your relationship with Christ always matters most.
As your musician friend, I have to say something you hate to hear: GO TO THE PRACTICE ROOM NOW. Some of my colleagues think I take this practice thing too seriously, but I want to tell you one of the most regretful things I did for my college years was not practicing enough. I wished I could have realized how important practices were as a freshman.
Another really important point is to seek outside opportunities and build connections. If you are a good musician equipped with solid skills, there would be thousands of opportunities out there. These opportunities would take you to places you might had never thought you could be in. (I was able to travele to Boston, Washington DC, Duxbury, Texas, New York, Hawaii, in the past four years.) Look for festivals, performing opportunities, workshops, conferences outside of Vanguard. Talk to your instructor, ask them to help you find and prepare for the auditions. Build your network with professional colleagues in and outside of Vanguard. But remember, unless you step outside of your comfort zone and present yourself, you would never know how big the world is.
Lastly, enjoy your college years. Don’t try to “kill time”. This is a once in a lifetime experience. As a VU alumna, I really wish you all the best in your walk with Christ and your career in music! Hope to meet you soon in the future.