Out of the Practice Room: Katy Ho | Teachers College Columbia University

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Out of the Practice Room: Katy Ho
(Ed.M., Music & Music Education)


Life Before TC:

Growing up in Macau, “a funny place that not a lot of people know,” Ieong Cheng (Katy) Ho always dreamed of coming to the United States. An accomplished musician who had begun studying violin and viola at the age of six, Ho somehow managed to get herself to New York at age 17, where she spent her senior year of high school at the city’s famed Professional Children’s School. The transition was not as easy as she had imagined – “I was so young and naïve, I thought I could handle all of this” – and included so many hours practicing in her Queens apartment that the neighbor below would bang a broom on the ceiling promptly at 9 pm every night to remind Katy and her roommate, a piano student also from China, that it was time to quit.  But the endless hours of practice paid off, and within the year she was accepted at the Juilliard School, where she would go on to earn a B.A. and M.A. and have the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall and on other famed concert stages around the world.

Why TC:

While at Juilliard, Katy began doing outreach work that alerted her to the possibilities for her artistry beyond the concert hall. In one life-changing incident, she was approached at a hospice by a mother who asked if she might play a Christmas song for her daughter. It was early November, Katy recalls, and it quickly became clear that the child would not survive until late December. “So I started to play Silent Night, and I almost burst into tears, because I couldn’t believe this would be the last Christmas song she would hear in her whole life,” Katy now recalls. “After that, I realized that I was doing something I needed to continue to do – not just playing on the stage, but playing for everyone, especially those who cannot go to the concert hall.” In 2014, she was awarded The Juilliard Morse Teaching Artist Fellowship, which connected her with a New York City public school, where she introduced students who had little prior exposure to the joys of classical music. The following summer, she started a program in Macau for special needs and low-income children, where they too could attend concerts and explore playing a musical instrument. “Music is not only a luxury for rich people who can go to concerts,” she says. “It is an essential thing for human beings to express their emotions, to feel the connections between music and humanity.”

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TC Takeaway:


At the suggestion of the Morse family, Katy enrolled at TC, where she became an Enid W. & Lester Morse Jr. Scholar. “I asked myself, should I keep myself in the practice room eight hours a day like before, or should I go out and educate people about the importance of music?” she says. “I started to believe that keeping myself in the practice room was not helpful any more, that I needed to step out into the real world and tell people that music education is important, not only so that children can be artistic, but for them to feel the very deep aesthetic ways to be a human being. They can use music not only in the concert hall, but everywhere.” Though she already had two degrees, Katy admits to being intimidated by the new challenge of writing papers and shifting her focus to learn less about the technical aspects of music and more about education and pedagogy. After completing her Ed.M., she has decided that she has more work to do to grow as an educator, and will stay at TC to complete a doctorate.

What’s Next:

“I feel like I’m a completely new person” since arriving at TC, Katy says. “I’m thinking differently, I’m teaching differently, and I’m playing differently, in a more creative and interactive way.” Some day she would like to create more non-profit programs for children in Macau, where, she says, many parents do not understand the true value of music education. But in the meantime, she’s just hoping to grow as both a musician and educator. “I love learning,” she says. “It’s about improving myself. I feel that I’m not enough. I have a hunger to learn how to be a better person so that I can serve more people.”

—Ellen Livingston

Published Friday, May 6, 2016

Katy Ho

Katy Ho

Katy Ho

Katy Ho