On a quaint little street corner settled between overgrown trees and a homemade chicken coop lies the home of Hou Si Wong. As you enter Wong’s home, you are greeted by her two cats, Rice and Pudding. Just to the left, you see a sky-blue music studio filled with keyboards, paintings of sunrises and posters with popular anime characters lining the walls.
Wong created this studio, as well as Sunny Side Music Denton, in 2018 after she decided to take her love for piano and combine it with helping others gain confidence in their passion for music. However, Wong didn’t always love the piano. She grew up learning the piano with strict, traditional teachers that would hit her hand with a ruler after she made a mistake and only point out the flaws in her performances.
“But when I came to Texas, I had a music professor who really encouraged me,” Wong said. “It’s truly the first time I remember feeling joy while playing. After she showed me how teaching and piano can be fun, I wanted to create a studio so I can make it clear to my students and their parents what my goals are.”
Rather than using negative reinforcement and judgment to get her students to play better, Wong uses simple, short segments of musical pieces and patience to guide them through the melodies. She also uses drumsticks and neon stickers with note names to make the lessons more fun and engaging. Her strong belief that anyone who wants to can play the piano was a guiding principle behind the founding of Sunny Side Music and several workshops.
Wong recently created a brand new series of workshops for beginners dedicated to the mastering of various anime themes. She found that, although there are several music studios across North Texas, none of them have a program specifically for learning piano pieces from animes. Her first workshop focused on “Gurenge,” the opening theme for the popular anime “Demon Slayer.”
“What I want to do is give [students] confidence to make the piano easier to approach,” Wong said. “I want the beginners to come in and prove to themselves that they can actually do it. I had a student come in and say, ‘I want to play the piano but the hardest part is just getting started.’
I hope I can make the hardest part easier for them.”
Wong’s passion for the piano and use of confidence building techniques enabled her to create a program that achieves her personal and professional goals.
“The best part of my job is seeing the drive that I spark in them,” Wong said. “Instead of ‘I have to learn’ it’s ‘I want to learn.’ It’s a way to tell them ‘you can do it, now use that passion to go on your own.’”
The next anime workshop, My Hero Academia’s “Polaris,” will be Mar. 21 at Sunny Side Music Denton.
Catty Tomaszweski can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Hou Si Wong, piano instructor and music therapist, shows the correct fingering for the music chords during an anime piano lesson at Sunny Side Music in Denton Feb. 22, 2020. Photo by Sarah Pham.