VC Talks: an interview with Elham Fanoos, GLORY Int'l Music Competition prize winner

First Prize, GLORY Int'l Piano Competition 2019, 2019

In this series of interviews, we explore how some of the most talented and prize winning young classical musicians became interested in music, who are their musical idols, what they are working on at present, and what they strive to achieve in the future.

What year were you born?

Do you come from a musical family?
I would so say. My dad is an Indian and Afghan Classical singer, it is called (Ghazal).

What was your earliest musical experience?
I used to play very basic popular songs when I was back in my country, Afghanistan. Songs like the God father theme, Love Story, etc. I studied at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which is the only music school in the country.

Why did you choose to play the piano?
I chose to play piano because when I was 5, I used to play Tabla (a traditional Indian/Afghan Instrument), but when I grew up my father encouraged me to pick an instrument like Piano or Violin. Then I was searching on YouTube and suddenly fell in love with the sound of piano and even the way it looks on the stage. The older I got, I realized the facilities of what we can do on the piano. For me piano is an orchestra.

Who are your favorite composers and why?
My first favorite composer is Chopin, then Schubert and Liszt. I just love the romantic period in general and these composers in particular because of the beautiful melodies they have written. It just connects with me. I love music that's melodic and melancholic. From the background I have, I feel that I can express what I want/have to say with those composers and pieces.

Who are your musical idols?
Vladimir Horowitz is one of them and my other musical idol is Yo-Yo Ma.

What is a perfect performer?
A perfect performance for me is a memorable performance. It is when the perform delivers what he intents to.

What music are you mostly enjoying at the moment?
I am enjoying Chopin Nocturnes at the moment. They just give me a special feelings when I listen to them.

What are the main influences in your music-making?
I think the main influences in my music are the taste of Afghan music that I incorporate when I learn/perform a standard classical piece, and the nature and experiences in my life.

When you are performing, what are your thoughts?
It depends what kinda of music I perform at the moment and how I feel. I do think and picture nature in my mind.

Where do you study music and what are your future educational plans?
At the moment I am a senior at Hunter College. My musical plans are to arrange some Afghan folk songs for piano, have my own volume of piano compositions, and have my own school some day to inspire other young generation from my country or around the world. I want to have an organization to help people who wants to pursue music but they can't due to certain circumstances.

What are your reasons to participate in music competitions?
I want to present my country and show a positive face of Afghanistan since I am the only pianist who plays and performs standard western classical piano compositions, at the same time I want to establish my career in order to do so.

What is your opinion about GLORY International Music Competition?
It is a great competition to start with, especially for the piano students who have not had many experiences with competitions. It is very well-organized and a great way to establish young musicians to pursue their dreams.

When it is not music, what interests you? What is your favorite pastime?
I like to chat and hang out with friends and talk about different things. I like love watch movies, ice-skating, playing ping pong, mostly sports and food. My favorite pastime is when I briefly performed at Carnegie Hall at the age of 15.

What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading the greatest contemporary pianists.

What are the happiest moments in your life?
The happiest moments in my life is when I make other people happy. I also enjoy my time with my friends, so those moments are my happiest moments.

What things do you not like to do?
I don't like to argue so much, I don't like to cook by myself, I don't like to talk a lot.

What inspires you and what makes you sad?
A beautiful performance can inspire me and when I see someone changes the world for better. What makes me sad is when I don't get to deliver what I want in a performance. Also when I see people struggle financially and emotionally. And when people have dreams but can't pursue it because of different reasons. And something that makes me really sad is the situation in my country.

What are your strengths?
I believe that one of my strengths is incorporating my emotions and feelings into my music. I am a positive thinker with self-confident.

What is your life motto?
One of my life mottos is a quote by philosopher Charles Horton Cooley, "I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am."

What is most important in life?
I think the most important thing in life is being happy and in order to do that is to serve people when you can. It is very important that we learn from our mistakes and live in the present. It is important to fail and get back up, fail and get back up. We have to try new things in life in order to find our true happiness and self discovery. In other words, we have to discover ourselves.

What is more important: talent or hard work?
I think both are important but as famously said "hard work beat talent" I believe in that. In order to make progress and discover our talents, we have to work hard. Without working hard talent wouldn't shine.

If today was the last day on earth, what would you do?
I would spend time with my family and truly live and share my music with the world. which we all have to do that anyway.

Why does the universe exist?
I think the universe exist because we need to discover ourselves and probably it is a test or examination of what we do and how good and bad we are and can be. Again, it is all about self-discovery and be able to give back to the society and help others.

Thank you very much for talking to us.