Oliver Nguyen has always been fascinated by music, and, as a double major in violin and piano performance at Oklahoma City University, the incoming junior has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians in the state.
His passion for music has earned him the title of first chair several times in his school’s orchestra, in addition to garnering many honorable mentions. Nguyen plans on entering even more performances, but this time with his violin.
In high school, in addition to being involved in a handful of other extracurriculars, Nguyen formed a group with his fellow musician friends and they would often play together at special events. Although the original group has since disbanded, he used the experienced to form a similar trio in college of a higher caliber.
Though, with their busy schedules, it has been hard for the group to meet for rehearsals, Nguyen thinks that the group has done well and plans on reforming the band for the upcoming semester.
Though Nguyen’s work ethic is certainly key to his ability, he attributes much of his success to the encouragement of his family and friends to pursue music. “I was interested in a ton of things growing up, including forensic science, medical school and of course music,” he says. “I chose music because it was by far the most enjoyable hobby for me, and my teachers and parents encouraged me to get better and pursue it.”
Of course, Nguyen is aware of the many stereotypes and stigmas surrounding music majors. Critics of the arts and humanities often maintain that, unlike the security of a STEM degree, soft majors are less likely to lead to financially stable jobs. However, Nguyen disagrees.
“There’s a meme that musicians are incapable of making money. I think it’s only true for the ones who are either terrible people or terrible musicians. I can’t deny that those people exist, but they are few and far between. I feel like if you search hard enough and are a good musician, you can easily find a stable job at either a school or some type of musical organization.”
Despite the critiques of outsiders, Nguyen has found that, at times, he has been his biggest obstacle. “As a musician, I’ve found that most of the hardship comes from yourself and not necessarily any outside sources. For me, it was arrogance.”
Nguyen recalls a period in high school where everything was going great for him in the music world; thus, he became too confident in himself. He became very complacent, and did not practice as hard as he used to, thriving off the cockiness.
This caused him to flop a few auditions, ones that he says he easily should have been able to do well in. In his moment of recollection, he realizes that had he been more diligent and humble, he would have gained a ton of experience.
The musician has since learned from that mistake, and has not made a repeat performance of it. “Having skill is one of a musician’s greatest strengths, but it makes them vulnerable to getting overconfident, which happened to me,” he says.
It is not always joyous in the music world, as with so much passion and determination there is inevitably competition to be the best. Nguyen points out that self-validation is key in being a steadfast musician, as it can be hard to keep oneself mentally in the game.
On the other side of being overconfident, there is the possibility of being too self deprecating. Nguyen himself has experience both the highs and lows, and has come to the conclusion that the best and most confident musicians take everything in stride. “They accept every event with the next step in mind, without brooding about the results for too long,” he elaborates, “They learn both from mistakes and from victory.”
Despite his heavy workload of various courses, rehearsals, private lessons and masterclasses, Nguyen still finds time to have fun with music. A part of his curriculum is having regularly scheduled Music Assemblies, where students are allowed to perform freely in front of an audience of their fellow classmates. Nguyen himself has participated quite a few times, and plans on incorporating more performances with his violin for upcoming assemblies.
De-stressing is something Nguyen looks forward to after long days of rehearsals. “I usually end up unwinding by playing some pieces that I’m already confident in, and can get right back to practicing soon enough.” Whether it be playing pieces such as Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, or Saint-Saëns’ 5th Piano Concerto, or even listening to Bach or Shostakovich, he finds happiness and peace through music.
Regarding what his plans are after graduation, Nguyen expresses that he wants to go to grad school, preferably in a different state. Regardless of what he ends up doing in the future, there is no doubt in mind this musician is going to keep playing his heart and soul out.