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Paloma Sendrey / Courtesy of Tiffany Poon

After graduation, Poon will leave Juilliard and New York to continue her music career.

Tiffany Poon, CC ’18, came to Columbia knowing that she wouldn’t major in music.

A pianist from early childhood, Poon—a native of Hong Kong—first came to New York when she was nine years old to study piano at the prestigious Juilliard Pre-College Division, after having deferred for a year to learn English. Since then, she has released an album, garnered 50,000 followers on her YouTube channel, and been named a National YoungArts winner.

A John Jay scholar and philosophy major, Poon said that she came to Columbia in part because of its connection to Juilliard, which would allow her to continue her rigorous piano studies while also pursuing a more rounded education.

“I never considered majoring in music here, because if I was going to, I might as well have majored in it at Juilliard,” she said. “I knew that I was going to pursue music, and I thought that I needed to broaden my perspectives in life and have more knowledge than just music and understand what it means to be a person living and how to be a better person.”

A class on the philosophy of art with Lydia Goehr, which she took her first year, led her to philosophy.

“Originally [I] thought I was going to major in English, but I didn’t like close reading. … I like the way philosophy makes you question things you wouldn’t ordinarily question and makes you find different aspects of life, different perspectives,” Poon said.

Her YouTube channel—to which she posts videos every Tuesday—is meant to make classical music more accessible to a wider audience, with the goal of humanizing classical performance. A class on aesthetics, Poon said, pointed out to her that the division between performance and performer may make classical performance feel impersonal for audiences.

“I think that there’s such a negative conception of classical music within newer generations of people that I think has to do with how closed or lofty the way classical music seems,” she said. “You go to a concert and it’s over and there’s nothing in between. You don’t know who the person is, so [I am] bringing more of a person and life to classical music.”

After graduation, Poon will leave Juilliard and New York to continue her music career, although she is not yet sure exactly where that will lead her. She does know, however, that she will continue working to inspire younger generations to appreciate classical music.

“It’s kind of sad that classical music is said to be dying,” she said. “[But] it feels like I’m making an impact on the world, and I’d like to continue inspiring more generations to appreciate classical music because I’ve been getting more and more messages from my audience that they were inspired to play because of me. And that means a lot to me, because it means that I’m doing something significant and worth my time.”

ainsley.bandrowski@columbiaspectator.com | @ACBandrowski

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