Humans of Music (part 2: Elaine Ding Waworuntu)

Humans of Music, by Felicia Satyadi and Vanessa Tunggal

Felicia and Vanessa asked questions to musicians over lunch, coffee or even online chat applications and received inspirational answers in return.

The article is going to be in English and Bahasa Indonesia.


Elaine Ding Waworuntu, pianist, music educator, ex-banker

How do you see musicians?

“Musicians are amongst the nicest people I know.” I remember when I met all the teachers and trainers at the International Kodaly Conference in Kuala Lumpur, this thought really struck me. I admire them not only because they are good musicians, or because they are smart but because they are just good human beings. Not all of them are religious, but every one of them has the quality of compassion, openness and willingness to share. I think that is how a music teacher should be. They have to model this for their students.

"Some musicians may guard their art very carefully, afraid to “give it all” when they teach. But a wise musician knows that they have nothing to lose by teaching their art. By giving, they are actually gaining. Amongst other things, they are gaining the art of teaching.”

The general public doesn’t have a high regard for musicians. This is reflected in the low salaries of musicians in comparison with other professions. You can also see this when schools assign non-music teachers to teach music whereas they would not do this with other “more important” subjects.  However, If you see a conductor doing his job, such as being able memorize all of the orchestra or choir parts, leading the whole team and listening to each of them playing their own instruments, you will begin to appreciate the complexity of their work.

If you could turn back time, what do you want to be?

Music teacher. When you have been under very good teachers, you will see that teaching is an art. Teaching and performing are different. To be a music teacher, you have to be good at music and good at teaching. If you see a very good teacher at work, (I am talking about a classroom teacher here), from the moment he steps in until he steps out it is just like a beautiful concert where the class is enjoying the music.

Professional musicians versus music enthusiasts?

Musicians need time to practice, to play with others in ensemble in order to improve themselves. If you are a professional music teacher and you are not improving yourself, your art will deteriorate. “It is a vicious cycle. You cannot teach well, you don’t know your work well, your student doesn’t learn well, they do not have the interest, they drop out and you keep thinking ‘Oh, I am teaching beginners anyway. Never mind, I don’t have to improve myself’.” Moreover, as teachers, you cannot have an overloaded teaching schedule that tires you out.

“Even if you love to do something, you need to strike a balance between activities where you can nourish your spirit.”