Secret to Happy — Piano Four Hands

My friend Yee sends over Whatsapp:

The song always reminds me of high school.

I didn’t realise she plays so well…and she looks so happy.

In the video, Karen Mok, a Hong Kong singer plays the piano four hands with her husband.

Just a regular afternoon. They looking intently at the score to catch all the notes and chuckles when one misses some. Child-like fun.

Recovering Music fun?

The morning I received Yee’s text, I had been thinking about playing piano. How fun it can be to play — play with music. When I moved from Hong Kong to the US, I noticed that whilst Asian kids dominated the music building, and a number were quite good, the non-Asian kids who played music seemed to experiment and enjoy it more.

In the US, kids don’t sit for exams. In Hong Kong, I have yet to meet a serious student of music who do not sit for the British music exams. In the US, instead of drills on scales, we learnt about expression, about performing, about the period the composers lived, the different styles of Western music. Kids that learned this way understood the relationship of notes, and grew up in a culture where people composed music, wrote lyrics, formed bands and ensembles to perform.

Given learning an instrument is such a large financial investment and time, I wonder if it’s time for parents to consider providing children with music lessons differently. Instead of pushing for “accomplishments” though exams, how might educators and parents and even the society foster more expression and fun through music?

Obligation tends to take the fun out of most things

When we feel obligated to play for the sake of exams, there is no joy. When it’s fun to play though, we learn faster and the learning sticks with it. For the society, the educators, parents, it’s a matter of framing and mindset perhaps.

Piano Four Hands by the couple — Karen Mok and husband.

Food for thought

What is it that people say? The older we get, the clearer we know what we enjoy. We decline those obligatory things we “should” do. And in other cases might reflect and ask why something joyful might come across as obligations?

Originally published at on June 18, 2020.

If you enjoyed this piece, let me know at my email! I would love to hear from you, and welcome any questions on personal growth or culture 😊 Warm regards, Karen

Writer + Host: Filmaholic/ Orchestrii Orchestrator-in-Chief / Design-lover /World explorer. Written for Zolima City Mag, Culture Trip.