Chopin’s approach inspired musician

What: Veronica Yen

When and where: Saturday, 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Anglican Church (chamber music concert). Monday, 1 p.m. at Craigdarroch Castle (piano recital)

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Tickets: $20 adults, $10 students at Ivy’s Bookstore, Long & McQuade, the Victoria Conservatory of Music, or at the door

Making a career as a classical pianist was one of the furthest things from Veronica Yen’s mind as a teen in her home country of Taiwan.

There were no musicians in her family and while she had taken piano lessons as a child, she quit at age 12, when academic pressures escalated.

But sometimes it just takes one moment to change the course of things: At 19, she heard Chopin’s Romance for the first time.

“I couldn’t believe I could ever play such beautiful music in my life,” she said this week.

“I didn’t think, I’m going to be a musician,” she said. “I just wanted to play the piano.”

Today, Yen, 32, is an emerging artist, with two albums of original compositions under her belt. She has performed in Chopin’s Residence, Conway Hall in London and several international festivals, including the Salzburg Festival and Edinburgh Festival.

Yen made her debut performance in Victoria this week, after Victoria Conservatory of Music keyboard instructor Michelle Yen Howland found her music online and invited her. The string of performances, which began Wednesday, continues Saturday and Monday.

Yen says she began taking piano seriously as a student at Edinburgh University. Although she was studying art history and architecture, she took private lessons with a professor in the music department, who invited her to play with his other pupils and sent her to competitions.

“Basically, I found I always won,” she said. “The more I performed, I found I loved it more and I can do it.”

She went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Yen has never strayed far from Chopin, who first inspired her. She has included the Polish composer’s work in her Saturday program and says his romanticism influenced her own writing.

“A lot of them are in the style of Chopin,” she said.

But she’s also taken risks in her own compositions, with a taste for blending music with other artforms.

“I like to take classical music and share it with more people. And I like to do it in a creative way,” she said.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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