On Wings of Song

August 20, 2008
By Louisa Lee, Perth, ZZ

-If you want something bad enough and you’re prepared to get rid of all the obstacles,
then nothing’s stopping you from achieving your goals
- mother

Tears streak down my face as I see my countless hours of work, ripped up and ruined in my father’s tightly fisted hands.
“Jia Ming!!”
He calls my name with a look of disgust on his face. Father has always treated me like dirt. Especially after mother died. He did not want a useless daughter and especially not one whose dream is to have a common and unstable future.
“You are from a wealthy family! You are to be a lawyer, not a mere pianist! If you want to be a pianist then go!
Go live out on the streets. The Yu name is to be held with honour.”

On Wings of Song
Hi. My name is Jia Ming, and this is my story.
Mother died in 1892, when I was 5. She died of an illness. It’s already 10 years later, but I still cry at night. She was the one who convinced father not to throw me out on the streets just after I was born. Everybody listened to mother. She was highly respected, even by father. She would even stay up with me in the middle of the night against the will of father to keep me company whilst I wrote out my music, note by note, one by one. She would sing too sometimes. She would sing and I would write the music down. I loved that. But I don’t have that anymore.
I wish I could be free from this.
I wish I had wings.

Father would get rid of our grand piano if it hadn’t of been a gift from his important business friend. It’s an antique and really beautiful. I have to teach myself but that’s the least of my troubles. I’ve loved the piano ever since I could remember. Father used to get invited to concerts all the time. He would take mother and I. I loved that. But I don’t have that anymore. Now he will just go by himself and sit with his business friends. This would be one of the chances where I could practice my hand written music. Sometimes I would sneak outside and listen to people play on the streets. Ordinary people.
I wish I could be free like them.
I wish I had wings.
Sometimes I practice at night. But only if I can’t help myself. I have to be careful. Otherwise He would find out. He’d yell at me, though I’m used to that. I don’t care about the yelling. The only way he could ever hurt me is to destroy my music.
So I’m careful.
I’m always careful.


My life is crumpled and scrunched up before me. My life in words, smeared into a blur. He’s left me here crying. My music, my life. Ruined.
He’s won. I can’t keep this up. I know that. And I can’t stop my music. So now I have to figure out what to do.
“You are from a wealthy family! You are to be a lawyer, not a mere pianist! If you want to be a pianist then go!
Go live out on the streets. The Yu name is to be held with honour.”

His fierce words keep ringing in my head. Over and over. And suddenly, I know what I have to do.

I’m out on the streets. I’m out on the streets with no where to go. I have no food and very little money, but this can’t be my focus. I have to do what I left my home for. I have to find a piano teacher.

I’m standing outside of his towering gateway. He’s the best piano tutor in China. All of his students are concert pianists and world renown. I knock on his majestic red door. A servant answers, almost immediately. I tell him I’m looking for Li Zhong Yue.
“He’s busy with guests, come again later.” The servant replies and slams close the doors in my face, before I could say anything else.
With the smell of faded paint in my face I knock again.
“Please,” I beg, “I must see him, it’s urgent.”
“I’ve already told you, this is his orders and not my decision.”
Again the doors are closed in my face.
I knock again and again, but no reply. I’m not going to give up easily though, I didn’t leave my home for nothing.
I circle around his house. It would be impossible to climb over those smooth towering gates. Yes, definitely impossible, I confirm as I make an unsuccessful attempt to climb. So I’ll dig.
I get on my hands and knees. With my hands shaped like scoops, I did through the hard, cold soil. The tiny specks of soil slides through my hands, fingers and into my sneaks under my nails, but I still dig. I dig for a very long time, keeping the rhythm of my hands going. Sweat pours down my face as I feel the heat in my body rushing towards the back of my neck. Finally, I stop to examine. The hole seems just large enough. Ducking my head, and squeezing my eyes shut, I crawl through. I’ve made it! My heart was pounding with excitement as I run towards the door of his house. Stupidly, I knock. The same servant who slammed the door in my face answers. His expression is of shock.
“Wh- How?”
Let me in,” I cry, “This is urgent, it concerns Zhong Yue!!”
The servant is in doubt, but he is afraid. What if what I had to say was urgent- something that would concern his master?
He looks me up and down and suddenly I know what he must be seeing- a peasant girl. Then I realise that a peasant girl is exactly what I am. I have nothing but a few coins. The only clothes I have are the ones I’m wearing and they are ruined from all the digging. As far as my father was concerned, I had no family. I have to convince this man that I must see his master, otherwise, a peasant girl is all I would be, for the rest of my life.

All of a sudden, I hear footsteps coming down the corridor. It’s him!! His jet back hair, dancing on his shoulders and his mouth set in a straight line. His face gives no emotion.
“What’s this?” Zhong Yue asks.
The servant bows his head low, “Sorry to interrupt you master, but this girl claims she must see you.”
Without another word, Zhong Yue leaves and walks back down the corridor. His servant, unsure of what to do, stands back clumsily as I rush past him, after Zhong Yue. I follow Zhong Yue into a huge room with a high ceiling and cold oak floors. 2 gorgeous pianos are placed near the corner. Light shines on both of them from the window, creating sparkles on the ash black surfaces.
“Yes?” He asks, almost as if he were bored.

“Please,” I beg, “please be my piano teacher! I’ll work hard! I won’t do anything else but practice.
Please, I’ve given up my life for this!”

Zhong Yue stares silently at the pianos. Unsure of what to do, I walk awkwardly towards one of them and I play. I play like I never have before; putting all my emotions into the piece, the sadness from the death of my mother, the love I have for the piano, the anger and fear my father’s created for me- but it’s no use. I see in the reflection of the glossy surface, Zhong Yue stops for just a moment, looks me up and down, before walking away. I stop playing and I can’t help but cry. I sob there at the piano. It’s no use. There’s no point in anything anymore. The servant quietly enters the room to let me out.

I reach the gateway of the musician’s house. A few days ago I would have given anything to be on this side of these gates- and I have, but now I feel that I must get out. Suddenly, Zhong Yue appears behind me.
Now almost smiling he turns to me, “Sorry about that. I just needed to see if your words were true. I needed to see if you truly wanted this.” Before I could answer, he continues, “and I know you do. Please, come in.”


I sit down at the piano seat. I have never been so nervous in my life. This is the biggest competition there is, held by London’s best music conservatory. I breathe out slowly. Master Li has taught me for almost 6 years now. I have to win this. Not only for me, but also for him. He offered me his home, a place to live. He’s stopped teaching all other students, just so he could teach me, as best as he possibly could. I have to win this. Breathing deeply I place my fingers on the smooth white keys. I begin to play. I play out the colour the harmony, the melody singing in my right hand. I pull and push the rhythms as the notes are pressed below my fingers. I close and eyes and breathe in as I recite a story, through the music. The story is mine. This song is mine. And now I am free. Now, I have wings…
The 7 judges have made their decision. My heart is pounding as my stomach feels like a wrung towel. Master Li sits just beside me, just as nervous.
“We have made our decision. The judges would like to thank everyone who participated today, from all countries. The standards were all of a very high level. Without further ado, I will now present the awards.
Highly Commended goes to Wang Jin of Malaysia.
Now, the judges today have decided there will be no 2nd place but 2 firsts will be awarded.
The winners who will receive a full paid scholarship to our conservatory in London and these 2 musicians are Wang Yu Xi and Fu Jia Ming!!”
I burst into tears. A rush of emotions- pride, so much pride, but for the second time in my life I realise I must leave behind everything. I turn to Master Li. He gave everything up for me but at least now I know I’ve done him proud.
“Well done.” He says softly. I hug him. He’s been like a father to me. And now I have to leave him, never see him again.
It’s been 5 years. 5 years and I’ve finished top of my year at London’s best conservatory with my best friend, Yu Xi. We grin at each other with tears in our eyes. We’ve been waiting for this day for 5 years. 5 years of studying music, performing in concerts and participating in competitions. At first it had been very competitive between the 2 of us. Only halfway through 3rd year did we become best friends. From then on we always played together, accompanying each other in concerts and competitions. Now we can really spread our wings and soar. We can travel the world playing our music. Reciting our very own concerts with our own orchestras. I look around and see the laughing faces of all our friends. We’ve all made it. I can’t believe I’ve made it to here. I wish my mother could be with me here as I see Yu Xi hugging hers. I stare into the crowd of proud parents, sisters, brothers and a part of my heart aches. I wish I had somebody. I wish I could see master Li.

I stand behind the think velvet curtains as I hear my presenter introduce me to the crowd of millions. My first concert of my own! I still can hardly believe it!
“Presenting the world renown pianist, Jia Ming!! She is to play Mendelssohn’s most famous “On Wings of Song”!! Just as I am about to advance on stage to my applauding audience, Yu Xi comes running up to me from behind stage.
“Heyy!” I call, “You made it!”
But something’s wrong. Her face is worried, a frown etched on her forehead.
“Jia Ming! I came as fast as I could! Your master, Zhong Yue! He’s in hospital back in China! He’s extremely ill and… and they say that he won’t be there tomorrow…. I’m so sorry… I only just received the letter…”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. This is all wrong! This should be the happiest night of my life. But now, it’s the complete opposite. The closest person to family I have….
“I have to go see him.”
Yu Xi’s face is of shock, “But what about your concert! Millions of people are out there Jia Ming!! Are you just going to abandon this? You’d need a flight back and … we don’t know if he’ll still be there… I’m so sorry.
“I have to see him. You don’t understand…. I have to see him. I’ll get a flight back. No matter what, I have to see him. Yu Xi! You can play tonight! You’ll play- instead of me! I know this is a lot of pressure on you but I have to go. Even if I lose everything, I have to go…”
Yu Xi finally agrees to this. We hug and part ways. She steps onto the stage as I rush to the airport.

“Why did you give everything up? Everything. It’s gone to waste. You should have done your concert. There’s nothing you can do to help me, Jia Ming. You’ve just come to watch me die.”
“Please…I had to see you. You’re my family.”

They took him away the next morning. They took him away and I was left with nothing. I flew back to London in the afternoon. I had never felt so lonely before in my life. Yu Xi was waiting at the airport.
“Come on, I know something that might help.”
She brought me back to the concert hall last night.
The piano was sitting at the back of the stage, behind the closed curtains.
“Go on. Play for him. As a sign of your thanks, play for him.”
I go sit on the piano seat and then I pour my heart out to the piano. I played for him. Tears streak down my face, onto my fingers, onto the keyboard. But I still play. I play piece after piece and I think about him. I play until I can play no longer. And then the curtains are drawn back. A massive audience is applauding. Yu Xi steps out onto stage with me.
“I told them your story.”

-If you want something bad enough and you’re prepared to get rid of all the obstacles,
then nothing’s stopping you from achieving your goals
- mother

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