An Interview With Ridley Academy Student Shaowei Lai

Who is Shaowei Lai?

Shaowei Lai was an investment banker, until her children inspired her to drop everything and change careers. 

She realized that she had gone off from the dreams she had as a child, and decided to revisit some of her earlier dreams, goals and ambitions.

When she isn’t running her household and raising her two children she spends her days making fine art through the mediums of paint, ceramics and sculptures.

I had the chance to interview her and find out about her experiences with Stephen Ridley and the Ridley Academy.

What were you up to before the Ridley Academy?

Before the Ridley Academy I was working in an Investment bank. I had just decided to quit and pursue one of my childhood dreams – of becoming a visual artist. I was inspired by my children.

Life was becoming happier and more fulfilled as I started to let myself follow my heart and my dreams.

I then came across Stephen’s course on Facebook and decided I must let myself learn piano too, because that was also what I wanted to explore as a child but was never encouraged.

And I was not disappointed! It was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

How were your experiences with the piano or piano learning before the Ridley Academy?

I attended a few in-person piano lessons a few years prior to Stephen’s course but didn’t continue after having my children.

I enjoyed playing the piano, but I found learning quite confusing. My progress was very slow.

How was your journey with the Ridley Academy?

The journey has been AMAZING! Everything in Stephen’s course makes so much sense.

The teaching was very focused and to the point, the practice was very fun.

Even though it was suggested by the course to practice a few minutes a day, I very often sat there and practiced for much longer because it was just so fun.

I was loving the challenge and it was very fulfilling to see my progress every single day.

What I found also fascinating is that I actually learned a lot about life through Stephen’s course – how to focus on the task at hand and not pay too much attention on the end goal, how to make large and difficult problem into much smaller and solvable ones.

Stephen’s course provided me with another medium to be creative, to have another way out to express myself.

I am so grateful to be able enjoy playing other people’s beautiful music, and to also creating my own.

I just feel so alive and peaceful every time I finished playing piano!

What aspect do you like best about the academy?

I like best about how the course is structured and designed

But Stephen’s Q&A and the opportunity to share your work and progress with other students in a safe and encouraging environment.

Sorry that was more than one point, it’s hard not to include them!

Have you had any big changes as a result of your improved relationship with music?

I feel like I am living my life when I am playing, also when I listen to music. Now, every time I do I have goosebumps all over me, like waves going through my body. It’s an amazing sensation that I never had before the course.

Making art and making music is the way I want to live, I am so grateful I get to do these.

I actually started to make my own music and I am planning to incorporate the music I make into the exhibition of my artwork.

How has the academy and your new level of skill with music benefited your life?

I have more joy and more peace in my life so far.

Perhaps in the near future I can provide for my family through music too, but I don’t know how yet.

Right now I am just enjoying playing and making music.

What are some of the successes that you have had on the Ridley Academy?

I actually found my soul mate and best friend through the Ridley Academy Facebook community!

I wanted to read sheet music comfortably and I can now.

I wanted to play music with more complexity and I can now, and I also now have the confidence to know that however complex the piece of music is, through breaking it down and putting in effort to learn it, I will be able to play it and play it well.

I couldn’t improvise before. Now I can easily improvise, especially with chords from songs.

What do you think makes the Ridley method different than other methods of learning the piano?

The key difference is that it doesn’t try to get the students to learn a simple song to begin with and then a more difficult one like how the traditional piano teaching is.

You are not asked to play any song but just learn each component of the skills you need in order to play a song.

Once you learn all the skills at the end of the course, you can play ANY song, however complex it is.

This reduces a lot of confusion coming from the traditional way of learning.

Additionally the pattern recognition on scale is amazing, it completely transformed how scale was learnt into how it should be learnt.

If you knew someone who was thinking about doing the program, what would you say to them?

I loved the Ridley Academy, and I would definitely recommend it.

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