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The Universal Language: Hitting the High Notes with Two of Hong Kong’s Most Talented Music Teachers

For those looking to sing like Sinatra or strum like Santana, Hong Kong boasts a score of high-quality musicians eager to pass on their skills. On a quest to find the teachers with a pitch-perfect passion for what they do, we spoke to Dina Fung, whose German upbringing and Hong Kong heritage make for some unique lessons, and LA-born jazz master Howard McCrary, certified cool cat, according to the late King of Pop Michael Jackson!

What instruments were you interested in as a child?

McCrary: Since age five I gravitated towards the piano. My Mom said it wasn’t like I was learning, but remembering. Later I played other instruments, like the organ and synthesiser, when it came out!

Fung: Piano was my first love and my formal education began at age five. I also enjoyed playing the baroque alto recorder, but to me, singing is the ultimate joy.

Who were the main influences in your music learning and your biggest inspirations?

McCrary: My father played the saxophone and set a good example. He once challenged me to learn Claude Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ by ear. He said that if I did, he would give me 50 dollars, which was a lot of money back then. I did it in a week, and he never challenged me again.

Fung: My teacher, mentor, and friend, Ms Gudrun Schönemann. She never put pressure on me, not even in competitions. She taught me right from the beginning that hard work is a big part of raising standards.

What’s the most helpful advice you have been given?

McCrary: Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up!” Music has its own challenges. Anyone can start but it takes a person of great perseverance to see it through to the end of his or her dream.

Fung: My mentor taught me to treat every note with love, transferring the note we see on the music sheet into an impactful sound.

What value do you see in taking music lessons?

McCrary: Music is a universal language, but you have to learn it, it must be taught. Lessons are the avenue to learn the language and if you have a good teacher, you can achieve beyond your expectations.

Fung: The personal growth you get through music education, the combination of discipline with pleasure, rules with freedom.

What is your most memorable music moment?

McCrary: I was one of the Andraé Crouch singers and we were in the studio singing ‘Keep the Faith’ with Michael Jackson. We’d reached an impasse where no one knew what to do next. After 20 minutes of silence, Andraé got us each to sing the words “keep the faith” in different notes.

When the track came on, everyone sang their part in a booming choir harmony. Michael jumped three feet off the ground and exclaimed, “I love it, I love it, I love it, thank you so much!” Music is a living, breathing thing, you have to respect the silence – that’s where the real music is hiding.

Do you have any advice for parents looking to get their child into music?

Fung: Introduce them to a few instruments they can choose from. Then, slowly lead them to a commitment of improving through daily practice.

What’s your method of teaching?

McCrary: I try to teach what I know so that the music becomes an experience. It’s one thing to hear the music and another to feel it; I try to teach the feeling of music, so it comes from the inside out.

Fung: I believe in growing together. There is so much learning, interaction and understanding involved in the process. I openly admit that my students have taught me so much about life and communication over the years.

Do you have any tips for those looking to diversify their tastes into different music genres?

McCrary: Get a foundation – everything derives from something that happened a long time ago. Classical knowledge will give you the best foundation. From there you can go into anything – jazz, rock, pop. Learn from the masters, that’s why they’re called masters!

Fung: Get to know different kinds of music genres through listening. There’s no limitation, just keep exploring until you find an authentic way to express yourself!

Dina and Howard are offering an exclusive summer discount for Localiiz’ readers via their teaching venue, Wan Chai’s One Serviced Music Rooms.

Howard McCrary – Vocal lessons – 10% off if paying for four lessons in advance. All lessons must be finished by 30.9.2014.

Dina Fung – Vocal lessons – Teaching original French songs from the ‘40s for HKD$500 per 45 minutes (original price HKD$600). German diction for singers for HKD$500 per 45 minutes (original price HKD$600). All lessons must be finished by 31.8.2014.

To learn more about the amazing teachers at One Serviced Music Rooms, visit their Localiiz page.

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