Galene Wong – Piano

Piano
Classically trained
Classical and Contemporary 

Head shot - Galene Wong

I teach Piano. I am a classically trained, collaborative pianist from Rockville Maryland, with a penchant for music theory. I studied under Dr. Donna Koh, DMA. from elementary school through my first year of high school, when I paused my private piano studies to focus on collaborative piano. I participated in my high school’s jazz ensemble for three years, and performed in invitational settings such as Department of Education functions in Washington D.C. and the famed Blue’s Alley. In my sophomore year I landed my first paid gig playing Piano II for a production of Beauty and the Beast. Upon graduation I added Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Nunsense, and The Secret Garden to my list of pit orchestra engagements, serving as rehearsal pianist and Piano I for the latter three. I resumed my classical studies with Dr. Yuliya Gorenman, DMA. at American University while performing in the AU Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and chamber ensembles. Outside of school I taught piano in the D.C. metropolitan area, amassing a studio of 19 children over the course of two years, before completing my education at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My teaching style is heavily based in theory and technique, but I believe the most important aspect in making music is emotion. I encourage students to build their repertoire with pieces across all genres that are both technically challenging and personally meaningful.

When did you begin playing piano and why?
I began playing piano at age 6, and I don’t remember having a choice. However, after a brief break in middle school, I remember making the personal decision to return to piano when I realized I thoroughly enjoyed creating beautiful sounds with my fingers and a glorified wooden box of hammers and strings.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
Despite my lack of formal vocal training, I have participated in choirs my whole life which afforded me opportunities to perform across the United States, the Weiner Musikverein in Austria, Hungary, Czechia, and most recently Mexico with Singing City Choir in the summer of 2019 (where I met fellow PML teacher Hannah)! My father, a life-long accordionist, taught me how to play the instrument. Unfortunately I have zero upper body strength and struggle to physically maneuver the accordion, but I can do it if someone pumps it for me! In elementary school, my father tricked me into playing the “computer game” Finale Notepad; I remember spending hours creating little compositions (this was before I discovered Neopets). In high school, I taught myself the electric bass and played occasionally at church functions. I recently started learning the cello.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
My musical mission is to spread the joy of music, whether it be through teaching, performing, or accompanying. As long as I can make other people happy through music, I am fulfilled.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?
Something you’ll remember forever? While completing my degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was lucky enough to take Physics III (waves, optics, and modern physics) with an acoustical physicist. His extracurricular digressions during lecture involving the science of sound helped me gain an academic understanding of my musical pursuits, like why consonance sounds better than dissonance or how Dr. Amar Bose (a Philadelphia native!) changed the game for audio systems.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
The pro’s get nervous too! My college piano professor and resident artist at American University encouraged me before my concerto competition performance by sharing that she too gets stage fright every time she performs. This made me realise musicians, even seasoned concert pianists, are allowed to doubt, struggle, and be imperfect. This non-perfectionist attitude saved me from loads of unnecessary stress. If only I had this mindset before!

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
I took my first cello lesson at 24 years of age. I was confident that as an existing musician I could catch on relatively quickly, but there was definitely a learning curve. I stubbornly refused to use tape and thus struggled with intonation, which is something us pianists take for granted.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
I scored a 5 in AP Music Theory my sophomore year of high school, despite only joining the class in the second semester. This precedent allowed me take the International Baccalaureate Higher Level Music exam my senior year even though I was only able to take the class my second semester as well. With these two college level credits under my belt I was able to take senior level courses like Counterpoint and Music History my freshman year at university, which I sincerely appreciate since I switched majors my sophomore year.

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love the fresh perspectives and boundless creativity my students have to offer. For their last recital with me before I moved cities, I challenged my former students, aged 5 – 12, to write their own program notes. They blew me away with their insightful analyses and emotional connections. Without them, I would still be referring to the “sausage noodle” pedal as “sostenuto.” How pedestrian!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
The first part of learning music is the fundamentals, and the first part of fundamentals is FUN! 

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
When I’m not wearing my engineer or piano hat, I’m wearing my dance hat. I took my first ballet class in college and never stopped. My dream job is to be a rehearsal pianist for a ballet company, so I’ve been teaching myself piano reductions for classical ballets like
Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. No one has invited me to play, but I’ll be prepared if that day ever comes!