Meet Theresia: Ching-Yao Wang

By Emilia Campagna

June 3, 2024

Theresian flautist Ching-Yao Wang is a highly active musician who recently won the first prize at the inaugural Dutch International Traverso Competition. Born in Taiwan, he moved to Europe to pursue his passion for music. It was here that he discovered and joined our orchestra… Let’s find more about his story.

How did you start studying the flute and what were the most important steps in your education?

I have always had a special interest in wind instruments since I was a child. Besides piano and percussion lessons, I learned to play the recorder and the harmonica by myself and played them every day for hours without taking a break. When I was ten, a very famous pan flautist came to our town and opened a private music school, where I started to take violin lessons. Since the pan flautist didn’t have enough students, he offered me free lessons on the pan flute, and it turned out that I was much more talented on the pan flute than on the violin. One day, he gave me a CD with pieces where he played the flute and suggested that I should learn to play the flute and consider a professional music education. I still remember the moment when I first heard the sound of the flute. I fell in love immediately with this instrument and started to take lessons. Later, I entered the Taiwanese music experimental class and received profound music training. When I was eighteen, I decided to come to Europe to study the flute. The music school of the pan flute player in our town closed a few years after opening, and my first teacher has withdrawn from the music business. I’ve never seen him again since then, but I am still very grateful to him for his advice.

When and how did you decide to become a professional musician?

It was never a question for me. I fell in love with music when I was very young, and since then I have never thought about leaving it for once. When I play the flute, I am the happiest person in the world. I am very glad that I now have so many opportunities to play concerts with my friends and colleagues.

Do you come from a musical family? Did your family support your choices?

My parents are not musicians, but my father is an enthusiastic amateur recorder player and a big fan of early music. I grew up in an environment very interested in arts. Regarding my decision to become a musician, they had their concerns, which is absolutely understandable. But they supported me anyway.

When did you choose to focus on historically informed performance?

It was more of a continuous process than a single decision. Since I started playing the traverso, I gradually played it more and more. Especially after founding my own group, ensemble freymut, I began spending a lot of time with historical instruments and sources without even realizing it. One day, I woke up and found myself deeply immersed in the world of historically informed performance!

Do you play the modern flute and modern repertoire as well?

I don’t play the modern flute that often anymore since I’ve done that for many years, and there are still so many historical flutes I want to explore. However, I premiered a very special concert programme in March this year. It was a programme about the music collection of the Jewish harpsichordist Sara Levy, combining early music and contemporary music. Together with my ensemble, we commissioned a Suite from the Spanish composer Daniel Serrano. The Suite consists of six movements, each movement based on a piece from Sara Levy’s music collection. By using modern performance techniques on historical instruments, Daniel transformed the motifs and structures from the originals into fascinating sound constellations. It was an extraordinary experience for us to explore modern performance techniques on historical instruments, and our audience was amazed by all these sounds they had never heard before. I can imagine doing more projects like this in the future.

How and when did you discover Theresia and what has been your experience with the orchestra so far?

I found out about Theresia Orchestra quite by coincidence two years ago when I saw a poster for the audition at my university. Fortunately, I was invited to audition in Salzburg, and it was the most unique audition I have ever had in my life. It was more of a rehearsal than an audition, and the atmosphere was extremely positive and pleasant. There were four flautists who were invited to the audition, and we ended up eating ice cream and walking back to the city centre of Salzburg together. I am very happy to have been accepted by Theresia. Working with the orchestra has been absolutely amazing so far!

What has been your favourite orchestral or chamber music project with Theresia so far, and why?

It’s almost impossible to tell. So far, I have participated in two projects, and both have been my favourites. My very first project was the ten-year anniversary of Theresia with a Beethoven programme under the baton of Giovanni Antonini. The incredible energy he radiated during rehearsals and concerts was extremely touching. My second project was in Rheinsberg with Alexis Kossenko. Throughout the residency, he led the orchestra in a gentle and sensitive way, which left a very deep impression on me. The wind quintet project that took place as part of this residency was also a very special experience. Initially, the piece sounded very strange, and we all thought it might not work well. But after a few rehearsals, it came together beautifully in the end, and we had wonderful performances in Potsdam.

Would you suggest Theresia to a friend, and why?

Definitely! It’s a great opportunity to get essential orchestra practice on classical instruments, make friends, and explore new places. Unforgettable moments happen during the residencies. And the seminars of Theresia Academy provide good support for us, the young musicians, to better understand and deal with the challenges we encounter during our careers.

You recently won an important award: tell us about that.

Yes, exactly. I feel very proud and honoured to be the first prize winner of the inaugural Dutch International Traverso Competition for students. Although the competition was organised for the first time, everything was very well thought out, and the team on site was very friendly and supportive. The compulsory programme was absolutely charming, and it was a lot of fun to prepare and present it on the stage. It was also the first time in over ten years that I was back in The Netherlands. On my arrival, I was completely fascinated by the sky. I had never seen such an endless sky in my life. I live in Austria, and there are always mountains in sight. In The Netherlands, the sky is just endless…it was simply breath-taking. As far as I know, the next competition for traverso will take place in two years. Since there are not many competitions for traverso, I really hope that this wonderful event can bring more young traverso players to the international stage in the future.

What are your plans and dreams for the future, musically speaking?

I recently took over a festival in Vienna with my ensemble, and we have also started a new concert series featuring innovative early music programmes this year. Creating and implementing new programmes is artistically very satisfying, but the tasks involved are also tremendously demanding and time-consuming. My plan and dream would be for all these activities to achieve stability in the foreseeable future. In the long term, my dream has always been to be able to play the flute as much as I want since I was a child, and that has never changed.

How do you spend your days, apart from music? Do you have hobbies?

Due to my varied activities, I hardly have time for hobbies. But I love reading, and I try to read at least a few pages every day before I go to bed. I also enjoy handwriting. It’s a habit I developed in my teenage years. I usually choose a poem from a book and write it down in a notebook. The feeling of writing words beautifully and neatly on paper calms and relaxes me a lot. I always have this notebook with me wherever I go. In critical moments, it brings me back into balance and let’s me focus.

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About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia