Say hello to Mary Katharina Smith; a Chinese-American music talent. We first met Mary at private violin lessons a few years ago in the Pacific Northwest. We both shared the same private instructor and orchestra teacher. We quickly became friends and would often collaborate musically. From quartets, duets, and many other orchestral events and competitions, we have had many performances together playing violin.
In past interviews, we have asked a creative personality questions based on a primary subject. Since Mary has many other talents beyond violin that we’d like to showcase, we ended up asking her a lot more questions. After receiving the completed questionnaire from Mary, we saw how detailed and well thought-out her responses were and we couldn’t bring ourselves to eliminate any of her responses.
Here is part one of our interview with the creative mind of Mary Katharina Smith.
Saturn Creative Team: How did your journey in music begin?
Mary K. Smith: With piano. Piano was a common instrument in my family and at my elementary school so I believe my fascination with music started then. My Dad was also in a band when I was younger, though I don’t remember it. It’s likely hearing them play influenced me.
S.C.T: What is your earliest memory of playing music?
Mary: I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember showing off my totally cool and impressive two octave C Major scale to my cousins on a little keyboard at my grandparent’s house.
S.C.T: How did you decide that playing violin and piano were the right instruments for you?
Mary: Originally I wanted to play viola. I thought it was unique and different than the violin (basic). But my Mom turned her nose to viola so I compromised for the violin. I ruled out all band instruments because I thought my 5th grade lungs were too tiny. As for piano, it was and is a foundation. When I was born, my Mom told me the nurse said I had the hands of a pianist.
Mary and Madeline practicing for upcoming strings competition – taken in 2015
S.C.T: What is your favorite genre to play on violin?
Mary: Classical concertos are loads of fun. I love show-offy solo pieces.
S.C.T: What is your favorite genre to play on piano?
Mary: Has to be romantic. I think romantic piano is very easy to paint a picture with. It’s easy to get sucked into. Any nocturne is a go.
S.C.T: How long have you been playing each instrument?
Mary: I’ve been playing violin for about 6 years, and piano for 8 (with many breaks in between unfortunately).
Mary and Madeline perform Cannon in D at strings competition – taken in 2015
S.C.T: What qualities/skills have you gained as you’ve advanced as a musician?
Mary: I think being dedicated to an instrument(s) has made me very responsible, as in I feel a strong sense of responsibility to my tasks and I have to manage my time strategically.
S.C.T: What is the hardest skill you’ve had to learn as a musician?
Mary: I think playing in front of others is something I struggle with. Music, for quite some time, was something I did for my own enjoyment; it never really occurred to me that I could share it with others. But as you become more confident with your instrument and your playing, you appreciate having others enjoy your music!
S.C.T: Who has been your musical icons/influences?
Mary: In all honesty, whenever I saw a musician play, I look for things I could learn from them. I think being surrounded in a musical community, especially with musicians more experienced or skilled than me, pushes me to strive to grow. Fellow musicians are my musical influences and inspirations, I guess you could say.
Mary and Madeline perform a holiday duet – taken in 2014
S.C.T: What do you enjoy most about playing music?
Mary: I’d probably be bored out of my mind without it. It’s a very good expressive outlet for me. I find myself much happier when playing. It is one of the best joys and privileges of life.
S.C.T: Do you have any advice to give other young musicians?
Mary: I can say confidently that I wish I’d started younger. My advice would also be to make sure that you don’t let the stress outweigh the fun of it! Music is fun and joyful. Don’t let performance nerves ruin that for you. Don’t dread on mistakes you’ve made. Just focus on moving forward and enjoying yourself on the way.
Stay tuned for part two of Mary’s interview, to be released mid-month.