ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
Last week I found myself surrounded by a group of friends working on a difficult problem from a 400 level mathematics course. They were all deep in discussion, attempting to understand what they were doing, but after some time they decided to take a break. I expected them to talk for a few minutes, letting the problem fade away, but instead something completely unexpected happened. Of the five, three took out their ukuleles and began to play “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” The only woman in the trio was Florence Dou ’16, a double major in Mathematics and Chemistry and a talented musician.
Since the age of seven, Dou has been practicing the piano. Her journey with music began when her parents forced her into piano lessons. While at first she played to satisfy her parents, with time she came to grow fond of the piano and found herself striving to do better.
Her motivation to improve and grow as a musician led her to participate in a few competitions. She shares, “Back in Trinidad we have a national music festival and it is [also] a competition. I entered every year since I was 10 and I [won] a few championships.” However, she admits that her favorite part of the competition was the sight reading portion where, “you get new music you’ve never seen and you play it on the spot. I was really good at that and I always won.” She believes that her natural gift at sight reading has led her to successfully pick up other instruments on her own.
After practicing the piano for many years, Dou wanted to try the guitar. She only played for two years, and although she hopes to pick it up again, without a guitar she doesn’t think it will be returning to it soon. Still eager to learn something new, she decided to purchase a ukulele and teach herself how to play it. “I bought it last semester and have learned off youtube videos. I don’t have as much time as I would like for the piano, so I wanted a small instrument to play on my own time,” she explains. Out of all of the instruments she plays, Dou says that the ukulele is her favorite one because “The other instruments that I learned [to play], I was trained classically with lessons. [With the ukulele] I just looked up videos and learned how to play [the songs]. [This instrument] is a lot more relaxing, fun, and enjoyable. It [also] has an island vibe that reminds me of the beach and sounds like a happy instrument.”
From balancing chemistry, math, and music, Dou expresses that her biggest challenge is “finding the time to practice but [when] I have the time I get into it and develop a habit. [Then it becomes] easy because it is fun and it doesn’t feel like homework or a chore.”
Despite the challenge, she admits that her favorite part of playing an instrument is that, “I like that I’m not just all about my books and I have another interest, you know, that is kinda more artsy. I also like that when others play what I play we can have a connection. Sometimes I bond with people over mutual interests in music and we play [instruments] and sing together. I really [enjoy] that.” Furthermore, she shares, with a laugh, that playing instruments, “[is] a really good stress reliever… I think it helps with my school work too somehow.”
Currently, Dou is taking private cello lessons for course credit at Trinity. She enjoys playing a new instrument, especially one where practicing is part of her homework load. Once she finishes the course, however, she says she will not learn how to play any new instruments for a while. She shares that she wants to get better at the instruments she already knows how to play, especially the piano, which she has not played for a long time.
Dou hopes to do research in chemistry or work in pharmacology post graduation.
However, she hopes to keep music in her life by teaching music lessons. “I want to give piano lessons when I’m older because [I have tutored children before] and it was a lot of fun. I like children and I like piano, so why not combine them?” she states. To aspiring musicians she advises, “Everyone starts off bad… I started off bad too but if you’re really interested in [an instrument] you like it requires time and effort.
I don’t think anyone should be afraid at being bad [at first] and the only way to get better is to keep doing it.”