2020-2021 International Grant Winner (Master's Category — Music Research): Chooi Chong

Chooi Chong
Published: 18 June 2021

Congratulations to Chooi Chong, winner of the 2020-2021 International Grant Writing Competition for master's students — Music Research

Chooi Chong received $5,000 towards her graduate studies for her grant proposal, "The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Postcolonial Context."

Curious to learn more about Chooi and her research, we asked some questions over email...

How has being a Schulich student influenced you and your research? 

It was my primary research interest in French music that led me to Schulich initially. But as it turned out, my secondary research interest in postcolonial studies flourished over the course of my MA.

What led you to this particular topic? 

As a Malaysian music educator, I am personally invested in understanding how professional Malaysian musicians today perceive the colonial legacy of WAM, and reconcile conflicting emotions such as pride and guilt in embracing colonial culture even while aspiring to decolonization.

How does your research add to what was already known? 

My research will contribute knowledge about practicing musicians’ opinions on their profession in the context of postcolonial Malaysia. In the medium- to long-term, this knowledge will potentially lead to changes in and diversification of the field of Western art music (currently acknowledged to be Eurocentric) and its postcolonial history outside the West.

Were there any findings that were particularly surprising? 

Growing up I had always assumed that heritage is an inherent identity, but I have come to discover that it is a received narrative that is linked to politics.

What inspires/drives you in your research? 

The realization that musicians could be unintentionally perpetuating colonial inequities in the classroom or in musical institutions drives me to study the intertwining factors that lead to these inequities within the classical music industry. 

What advice would you give to new students in your program? 

Keep an open mind and be inquisitive

What is your earliest musical memory? 

Singing solfège in a Yamaha group class that I had tagged along to at the age of 5. I had no idea what the concept of solfège meant then, but I remember humming random tunes at home all the time after that class.

If you hadn’t ended up in music, what would your alternate career path have been? 

I guess my heart was set on music early on, so there really wasn't any other alternative path in my mind.

What was the last book you read / show you watched / album you listened to?  

The last album I listened to was Firm Roots (2021) by Firm Roots Duo, it's a brilliant crossover between genre and style — classical piano duo and jazz!

A native of Kajang, Malaysia, Chooi Foong Chong is currently pursuing an MA in Musicology (thesis) at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. She graduated from Goldsmiths College, University of London with Masters of Music in Performance and Related Studies. Having taught piano since 1999, her teaching experience extends from teaching beginners to advanced performers at undergraduate level, music tutoring for General Certificate of Secondary Education syllabus, lecturing, coaching chamber music ensembles, and musicianship skills training.

Prior to her studies at McGill, Chooi was a member of the senior piano faculty at Bentley Music Academy and an adjunct lecturer at Institute of Music, UCSI University in Malaysia. Apart from being one of the regular adjudicators of the International Piano Festival and Competition at UCSI University; she also co-founded Malaysian Piano Quartet, a quartet specializing in 2-pianos 8-hands music, in 2016.

Besides winning the 2020-2021 Master’s International Grant Competition at Schulich School of Music, her recent research accomplishments include conference presentations at South Atlantic Modern Languages Association’s 92nd conference in November 2020 as well as the upcoming North American British Music Studies Association Symposium in August 2021.

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