What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you plan to do after high school? Where do you see yourself in five years? What are you going to do after graduation? There are people who know what they want to pursue when they're young, and then there are those who take a while to decide or are still figuring it all out. For me I couldn't decide until end of high school, and to be honest at times I wasn't sure for a while even during university. I remember as a child I loved drawing, and I loved imitating cartoons and animations onto paper and colouring them in with detailed shading. I recall running up to my family saying that I wanted to pursue art when I grew up, and they laughed at me in response and told me I would only start earning money when I passed away - which was half true. However, one thing I knew was what I wanted to pursue had nothing to do with money, even though my family wasn't financially stable. I just wanted to be happy, while doing something I loved. Without knowing I think that became my dream.
The arts always followed me since I was child. At a young age I attended private piano lessons and did dance at a private studio. When I started at MacGregor State Primary School I participated in dance, violin and choir. I was very fortunate as my primary school had a good music program and great music classroom teachers, and I enjoyed it a lot. I was a very quiet, awkward child, and slowly opened up to become the class clown - hence the terrible puns. Music really helped me open up. It made me feel comfortable and find a purpose in life. However, I never saw it as a career, perhaps only an activity of public performance, socialising and sense of happiness. At that point I never thought about my future, but only figuring out who I was and what was right and wrong.
Seven years later I went into MacGregor State High School, again with a fantastic music program and music teachers. I met more people, and I also got introduced to more music. I clearly remember watching the Percussion Ensemble 1 directed by David Adelt, I was immediately inspired with excitement. I thought that's what I want to do, and that's the music I want to play. Soon I joined the Percussion Ensemble 2, as well as still juggling violin. I dropped dance ages ago and began piano lessons for a while. In my last year of high school I did drama, and participated in choir again. Career wasn't my focus yet, but short term goals within school became very important to me. I set out to become Percussion Ensemble 1 Captain, Albinoni (Senior String Ensemble) Captain, Instrumental Captain, and School Cultural Captain - all of which I achieved. However, the main reason I wanted to pursue music in the end was because of the percussion ensemble.
Percussion Ensemble 1 had a reputation at MacGregor State High School when I first started. They won Australian National Fanfare, beating all music ensembles in participating Australian schools and were highly praised for their achievement and talent. They would always place first at Australian Percussion Eisteddfod and often played exterior gigs representing the school at functions or concerts. All of this under the one and only David Adelt, a very intelligent and fine percussion teacher within school music programs. His ensembles were taken seriously, and music was more than just 'extra curriculum'. I started dedicating most of my school time to this program and my music within percussion. In my second last year of high school our Percussion Ensemble 1, which became Mac-Cussion, were asked to be on television for Channel 7's Australia's Got Talent. An absolutely amazing opportunity, which brings me to the moment where I decided music could become my career path. At our first round at the Gold Coast Arts Centre, we were immediately responded with a standing ovation. As a school ensemble, I've never seen that before. Also the fact that most of the people in the crowd were strangers and not parents or family members, and really enjoyed the performance. I can't explain the feeling, but it was like for a few seconds the whole room connected in a way and celebrated that moment together. To see a musical piece move an audience like that, I was just amazed at how powerful music can be and the response people can express towards such a thing too. I thought if something I loved could bring happiness to people's lives, then that's something I definitely wanted to pursue.
Unfortunately, in my last year of high school I lost my mentor and inspiration in music - David Adelt. After 20 years at the school, he decided to leave on a high note. Good thing is we're still in contact, and he's now my mentor, colleague and friend. Though at the time I was devastated and left with no motivation for a future in music. Though, I think that influenced me to become more independent and certain that I could pursue music with my new passion. The ensemble was never the same again as we lost most of our best players, but it needed a new direction this time and I also needed a new direction. That's when I went for all the captain positions and set out to achieve things for myself, and not for an ensemble or music program. These achievements helped develop a sense of encouragement and strength in preparation for my audition into the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith Unviersity.
I'll be honest. I'm not a naturally talented person, I wasn't a child prodigy, and I never had someone say to me in confidence that I should pursue music. I just consider myself a hard working person with goals and a dream. Similar to a neglected ballerina that was never fully supported due to her slightly rounder shape compared to the other pretty ballet dancers, which funnily enough was a chapter of my childhood - haha! I was ready to receive a letter saying that I didn't get in, and I was prepared to do a year of an education degree and then try auditioning again. To my surprise I received an e-mail notifying me that I was accepted into the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University for Classical Percussion and Jazz Vibraphone - the choice was mine. You can imagine the unlimited amount of emotions I was feeling at the time, and hoping I never woke up from a dream. I swear a couple of weeks after I received it, I would check it every now and then just to make sure it was real. Sometimes I would read them back with a smile on my face.
A week ago I received my three year degree in Bachelor of Music. Of course, it doesn't feel like I've graduated because I'll be heading back for Bachelor of Music in Honours next year. However, it makes me reflect how much I've achieved and accomplished within three whole years. As well as looking back in my early musical education too. So much has happened, and it became a whole new world of discovery with new people, new communities, new music, new ensembles - a new journey. There are a lot of lessons I learnt, and not just music lessons but life lessons. One of the biggest lessons was 'there is no wrong'. We get taught at such an early age, what is right music and what is wrong music. However, the longer I play music the more I discover that it's all in our heads. Yes, there is incorrect and correct when it comes to a yes or no question. However, music is music, expression is expression, and interpretation is interpretation. How you see, feel and hear something is different to how another takes it. So what is right, and what is wrong? I used to fear 'wrong' so much that I acknowledge that I have anxiety - something quite common in music. Though how funny is it that so many musicians who love music have anxiety to play it? Ironic, isn't it? Though I haven't overcome the fear, but resulted to tolerating it as my friend. It's an adrenaline that I take with me when I'm on stage, and becomes part of my music now. In life, there is no wrong either. It's just how you view it in comparison to how the society views it, but the difference is you're in control of your views - no one can change that. I strongly believe this, because this mental battle happened in my first year at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.
When I started university, I was certain that this was my dream and this goal was unstoppable. I had all the support I needed, and all I had to do was work hard. However, down the track I encountered negativity much bigger than myself. Someone I respected in music, told me that I was incapable of music and the dreams I set out to achieve. It was hard to hear that, and for once I felt music wasn't my path. I am a very self-conscious person, and to hear that from a mentor just crushed me. For a while I had no belief and went into a dark world, and I started becoming illiterate to music to the point I couldn't play a single note correctly. Practice would always result in anger and tears, and I almost just gave up on music entirely. Luckily, I met a beautiful person in my life. Someone perhaps at the time didn't know that his encouraging words would change my life for the better. I expressed my fear over the person who gave me negativity, and he said, 'just keep doing what you're doing, because you work harder than anyone else'. A few simple words, but enough to pick me back up again. Those words made me sit back and think about how much work I've put into this dream, and how much I've fought to get where I am today. I could never just let it go due to one negative experience or even many more to come. However, I don't regret the negative experience or any that have happened. They've all made me stronger and shaped me to the musician and person that I am today. Everyone in my life have influenced me whether it was negative or positive, and I will constantly learn new things as I grow.
I guess the purpose of this blog isn't to celebrate education, but appreciate it. Education is so important, and not just those given to us in school but also in life. It shapes who you are as a person and the values and morals we hold. It's so important to be aware of these things around us, and to take advantage of the situation with new knowledge and perspective in life. Education isn't a piece of paper, it isn't a letter or number, it isn't medals or trophies. Education is knowledge, experience, influence, inspiration, and changes how we live, breathe and move every day. People should never limit themselves because of money or culture, but they should choose with passion, love and happiness. Sometimes following your heart can surprise you, and for the better too. However, everyone's dreams and the journey that goes with it is different, but throughout their lives they've learnt something and it's shaped them to who they are today. Most importantly, you as a person controls what you learn or don't learn. Teachers and mentors are there to advise and guide, but your dream is yours and your life is yours. There is so much out there, and you won't be able to see it unless you open the door and let it in.
Laugh, Love, Live Education!
I remember when I was a classical student and envied the jazz musicians. I would attend so many jazz performances, everywhere and anywhere around Queensland. Eventually, I fell in love with the Brisbane jazz scene and the gorgeous people and their music that came with it. I also fell in love with the idea of jazz, and it was like a neighbour's party that I kept peeking over the fences to see what all the noise was about. Soon I went over and asked if I could join, and it's been one of the biggest and best decisions of my life.
In 2014 I was accepted into cross-studies at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University to major in my primary instrument, classical percussion, with my secondary, jazz vibraphone. Now they're both my primary majors and have become a massive influence to my life and career. I learnt so much from the music, and definitely much more from the people within the communities. Everyone has their own stories to how they got into music, and I find it so fascinating how people from so many different backgrounds come to have a similar passion in music. I found it especially fascinating in jazz. There were so many different branches of jazz, and each branch was a different background, a different voice. It was the 'voice' that intrigued me. The improvisations, the compositions - they all told a different story. I loved that, and I thought it was a place I wanted to take part in. I started performing in jazz recitals at first, and then I got asked for exterior gigs. Soon I gained the confidence for public performance, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and enthusiastic crowds. The more I played, the more I fell in love with it and enjoyed myself so much.
Here are some recordings below from my jazz recitals! Influences from Jamie Cullum, Pat Metheny and Alexey Chizhik. Go check out their music!
This year I was asked to do Green Jam on October 23rd, 2015. It was such an honour and privilege, and for the first time I got to share music I love with my loved ones in the crowd as well as new friendly faces. I had such a good time with my band, and it was my first public performance of my very own ensemble, Anna Kho-tet. The name is a pun off my surname, which was an idea given to me by a jazz vibraphonist and percussionist friend of mine named Andre Bonetti. I love puns and thought that was hilarious, I absolutely had to use it for an ensemble of mine! At Green Jam I was joined by Victoria Sly on vocals, who I've worked with in V&V. We've had such an awesome year doing duet work, and it was an experience and new project that I was super excited for. Finally we got to put our music into a band setting. Matty Cook on bass, a musician among many that I enjoy watching, and absolutely love his vibe, music and arrangements. Andrew Doo on kit, a beast of a player on the kit and also my first time jamming with him.
Thomas The 'A' Train, arrangement by Anna Kho
I always kept hearing Thomas the Tank Engine theme in a jazzy way, and I thought how cool would it be to arrange it with a jazz standard. What better jazz standard than Take the 'A' Train! I wasn't sure if it worked, but I'm super proud of how it turned out. Miss my childhood TV themes! Hoping to do more of the same with others - keen!
How can anyone hear this theme and not think jazz funk. It's just perfect! Matty on slap bass - you could never go wrong with that! Love it!
Cry Me A River, arrangement by Anna Kho
I have been dreaming about this arrangement for a couple of years now, and I never got around to it until now. It's just such a strange arrangement, but it somehow works? I kind of like the whole polyrhythmic feel. Love the pieces, love the mash up!
Black, Gold and Afro Blue, arrangement by Victoria Sly
Sh, but I named it without asking Victoria herself. She told me this idea came to her when she was singing Afro Blue over Black and Gold one day in her car and told me it worked well - and it does! To those who don't know it's a 6/8 jazz standard over a 4/4 jazz, pop tune. We first experimented it together as a duet in V&V and had lots of fun! I couldn't wait to put it with a band, and it sounds equally amazing!
With that stella ending we finished the evening on a high note - literally! Love goes out to my brother, Aaron, for filming all these jazz performances. Of course, the talented Maya Luski who took the gorgeous photos at Green Jam! Thank you so much to all my beautiful friends, families and fellow colleagues for stopping by, listening to my gig and supporting live music. Thank you to all the new faces I met that also enjoyed their evening. I honestly had a blast, and I just can't wait to do more jazz gigs in the future with Anna Kho-tet. There's so much more I want to do, including composition, and I'm going to make it happen! 2015 has been another joyful ride in my journey in jazz. I've played in two big bands, Con Artists and Conservatorium Big Band, I premiered my duet group, V&V, with Victoria Sly and performed at the Queen St Mall, and of course I premiered my arrangements with the Anna Kho-tet! I hope this groove never stops!
If you want to hear more performances by Anna Kho-tet, head to my YouTube channel or soundcloud page!
Laugh, Love, Live Music - jazz for this one!
This blog is a space to share my thoughts, past, present and future moments in my life. Feel free to leave a comment, like the blog or share it! - Anna