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Mabel Sieh
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A Scottish school offers local students the chance to hone their talents and broaden their horizons, writes Mabel Sieh

No matter how naturally talented you are, the right school can help you realise your full potential. This is why David Goodenough is in Hong Kong - he believes his school is the right place for musicians to hone their talent.

Music is a major part of life at Edinburgh's 135-year-old Fettes College, where Goodenough is the director of music. About half of the school's students take instrumental lessons, and perform individually and in groups. Beginners are encouraged to take up music, and already talented students have the support to pursue music to the highest levels.

While the majority of students are from Scotland and elsewhere in Britain, 25 per cent are international students from more than 35 countries worldwide.

During his stay in Hong Kong, Goodenough hopes to meet musicians looking for new study options, especially string players.

'I wish to bring the College to [Hong Kong students] rather than asking them to make the trip to visit us,' says Goodenough.

'Hong Kong students are among the very best [at the school]. Their commitment and dedication is exemplary, exciting and rewarding to teach.'

As for criteria, there is only one. 'I look for potential. End of story,' he says. 'I look for young people who are instinctively musical. If I can find that ingredient, we can teach the rest.'

Joyce Ma Tsz-yan, 17, is studying for her A-levels at Fettes. A former student of St Mary's Canossian College, Joyce says it can be challenging to get used to being around students from so many different places. 'At first, their different accents were difficult for me to understand,' she says, adding she had to 'learn not to be afraid of saying something wrong [in English]'.

But the opportunities the school gives her outweigh the difficulties. Apart from the frequent performances she gives as a solo pianist, and as a member of the orchestra and choir, Joyce says: 'Joining Fettes ... made me independent, as I need to travel alone to attend interviews.

'Life at Fettes is very fulfilling.'

Local student Julianne Chan Ho-yan is set to meet Mr Goodenough. The 17-year-old has been taking piano lessons since kindergarten and started to play the violin in Primary Two. Her real passion is singing and she has been a member of the school choir since primary school.

'To me, music is natural. When I'm cheerful, it makes me happier. When I'm sad or angry, it helps calm me down. It's a way to express my emotions and feelings; it's a part of me,' Julianne says.

If accepted, Julianne wants to take part in all the activities related to choral music. 'But I would also love to join the College orchestra as a violinist or a pianist,' she adds.

E-mail [email protected] if you want to talk to Goodenough about applying to Fettes.

Listen to Joyce Ma performing at Fettes

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