Morning Calm

“Morning Calm” is the title of my new piano piece.

About six months ago, I moved closer to my day job in order to give myself more time to work on my music. My new apartment is just a walking distance from the office, and one of the best consequences of this change is that I no longer use an alarm clock to wake up. It is such a blessing that my life is not dependent on the hours of traffic or bus schedule.

Every morning, I feel relaxed, and my mind is more focused on the music I create.

Why I Make Music

The musician in me wants to embrace this romantic notion of music-writing. Something like “I got inspired today, so I wrote this beautiful song.”

But the educator in me wants to teach the world about the misconception of such a notion, what it means to actually pursue music, and why, although the actual process may not be as cool as the above romanticized version, is actually the coolest thing ever.

It is great that there are so many ways to enjoy music. I am a creator, and I am much more interested in creating rather than consuming. I’m not as interested in consuming music, or rather, consuming much of anything, hence the reason I don’t own a TV or a smartphone, and I don’t surf the internet unless specific circumstances require me to. Some people even find it shocking that I don’t have internet at home, but to me, living distraction-free is a great way to maximize the time to create music and thereby increase my level of happiness. However I do appreciate that the world also has consumers, like the people who like to enjoy music by listening to them. Many of my songs were written with a specific audience in mind.

But one thing is very clear to me. The world needs more creators. Fulfillment in one’s life pretty closely matches the ratio of how much one creates as opposed to how much they consume. The happiest people I know and have worked with closely are all creators. So although I don’t advocate that we stop being consumers completely from this moment on, I do encourage everyone to create more. It doesn’t have to be a piece of music, and it doesn’t even need an audience. But do create something. Maybe a wonderfully tasty meal, a lecture on a topic you care deeply about, or the first draft of the first chapter of that novel you’ve always fantasized about writing. You will notice that all of these things don’t just happen simply because you got inspired. It takes a lot of time to build up the necessary knowledge and to refine your skills to get to a point where you can create something beautiful.

To make good music first requires acknowledging your shortcomings. Only then can you define what work it will take to overcome them. It helps if you can find pleasure in knowing that there are things you cannot do yet but you do have the potential to accomplish with effort. Either way, in the end it simply comes down to actually putting forth that required effort. That’s all, there are no secrets to it. This process is not “fun” in the traditional sense that people use that word. “Struggle” might be more befitting. But I argue that the struggle is where the fun is. The constant struggle shapes you in ways you would never have imagined. There is nothing more fulfilling than going to bed each evening knowing that you made progress today, and you will again tomorrow. This daily progress is so small that nobody except you noticed. But the little steps add up over time, and in what seems like a blink of an eye (to others, not you), you will reach a point where people say things like, “How the heck do you do what you do?” “You’re so talented!”, and “Your work is so beautiful! What inspired you?”

It is a tragedy that “talent” is so commonly regarded as the factor that limits what a person can accomplish in life. “Talent” is a false concept, there is no such thing. So although it may be tempting to say that a person is “talented”, please, be careful when you use that word, especially around children who are still forming ideas about how the world works.

All of the above is not to discount inspiration, I do get inspired to write music from time to time. But most of the time when I write, it is intentional. And even in times when I get lucky and catch a whiff of inspiration, what I am able to do as a result of that inspiration is still limited by the skills I have built up slowly over time by being intentional about my growth.

I didn’t choose to pursue music because I wanted to become great. Actually, I admit, I do yearn to write a great song and I think all musicians do, but that’s just a possible outcome of my trying, and I don’t have full control over that, so it is not the most productive goal to work toward if I am to be at peace with my current self, because most of the music I write I don’t even like. They are pretty bad. And if I don’t ever achieve a point where people consider my music to be “great”, I will be perfectly okay with that. That’s not really the point of music anyway. Music was invented as a way for people to have fun. I am a musician because the very act of creating is fun and fulfilling. I simply feel blessed just for having the opportunity for even the remote chance that I might create something beautiful, and even if I end up creating a bad piece of music, well, I would still have had a whole lot of fun doing it, so what more can I ask for?

Evening Drive

For me, driving is a time of reflection. I love the solitude that it provides. I don’t even listen to music in my car as I find it distracting. I just listen to the white noise coming from the car’s engine and the road, and I simply reflect.

I have recently finished writing a collection of piano pieces which portray the different scenes and aspects of my everyday life. This piece is one of them, and is a portrayal of my car ride as it takes me through the various neighborhoods and highways in one Los Angeles evening.

The other pieces in the collection will be available in digital stores soon!


A few years ago, I took a bird-watching class. I learned about the great diversity of bird species that existed nearby that I never knew about. It was also a great way to force myself to leave my work at a reasonable time and go enjoy some sunlight and nature on a more regular basis. What started as my desire to satisfy my intellectual curiosity led me to realize that I was not taking very good care of myself. It was a waste not to spend more time basking in the beauty of this planet, the only home we have ever known. This song came about during that period.

Check out this song and more on my album, Memories, available on iTunes / Amazon / Spotify.

Music’s Purpose

Earlier this week as I witnessed L.A. Philharmonic’s deeply emotional performance of Arvo Part’s masterpiece, “Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten,” I was reminded again the purpose of music.

In my daily life as I strive to become a better musician, it is very easy to get caught up in the minute details of trying to perfect my technique that I forget why I am pursuing music in the first place, and what I am trying to accomplish through my music.

I am not writing this to dismiss the importance of technique, rather, quite the contrary. Technique is important because it serves a higher purpose. All of the scales, arpeggios, and etudes that I play on a daily basis, and all of the time I have spent taking apart a phrase into even smaller parts and studying them, have equipped myself with the ability to express the emotion which I always knew in my heart that the music deserved, but did not have in my hands the ability to bring out.

This particular composition was just what I needed to hear, because of what the piece consists of. It is a piece written for the orchestra, yet unlike many symphonic works that consist of quickly changing themes and complex harmonic structure, it basically has one melody, a descending minor scale. It is a bold expression of how simple things can add up to so much more than a sum of its parts.

In a way, this piece is a perfect synonym of life; the world is like the symphony, and each of our lives express a small yet important piece that make up the beauty that is the universe. It was a slap in my face and a reminder of the sheer power of one simple idea.

Why music education matters

One of the greatest joys of being an educator is to experience these special moments when my students’ hard work pays off.

Today, two of my awesome students, Blanca and Esther, performed music with the likes of Gustavo Dudamel, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars, in possibly the biggest stage of all, the Super Bowl Halftime Show!

I feel like a proud father, having seen them work so hard to balance music and education throughout the years I have known them. You could say that they were very lucky to have had this opportunity, but none of this would have happened if it weren’t for their hard work. Like the saying goes, “luck favors the prepared,” and these two definitely deserved it.

Esther and Blanca were introduced to music through Harmony Project. In a city where most of these students would otherwise have no access to music education, students in Harmony Project get an instrument to take home, music lessons, and an opportunity to play in an orchestra. The orchestra you see in the video is YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles), a culminating performance group founded by the Harmony Project and L.A. Phil.. But there are so many students in Los Angeles, and the program is not even close to meeting the demands of the number of students who want to learn music. Music has given my life purpose, and I wish that one day, every kid will have the same opportunity that I had growing up, no matter where they’re from.

This is such an important issue because music teaches you life’s fundamental lessons. By pursuing music, I learned that nobody is born with talent, and that there is no replacement for hard work. I learned about the power of art that brings people together and helps heal wounded souls. I learned about the joys of overcoming challenges, and the importance of saying “I can’t do it yet” instead of “I can’t do it.” And most importantly, I learned to seek happiness in the work that I do, instead of the things that I own. (I wrote more on this topic here. Also check out my brother’s hand-lettering piece here)

If you care about the future of these students, I urge you to consider making a donation to a local organization that provides music education for the youth, such as The Harmony Project and San Jose Jazz. After all, supporting music education is not even about music. It is about helping these students discover some of the most important lessons they will ever learn in life.