My Life is Average (Part 2): Finding Harmony

by Tian-Yuan Zhao (Music & Electrical and Computer Engineering)

This year, CTSI has worked with students to explore their perspective on learning at UofT. This blog post is the second in a series showcasing a student’s view of UofT, continuing with how co-curricular activities have shaped his experience.

Ever since I started university, I knew I had to get involved in extra-curricular activities, for I wanted to gain an enriching, well-rounded, balanced, wholesome and holistic experience. But, I also wanted to differentiate myself, since I didn’t just want to be defined by my student number, rather my achievements, actions and activities. I’ve always had the philosophy that diversity only makes you stronger, but upon entering university, I made the mistake of being too extreme. I attended too many events, joined too many clubs (or rather, mailing lists) and made friends here and there. I was in a simple phrase – all over the place.

My first year was both full of much excitement and entropy (or chaos). It was both a terrible first year and a terrific one. I did things I never thought I would but at the same time, regretted not focusing too much on my studies. I lived in Chestnut for my first year and you would think living on residence would be a perfect place to make new friends, gain a support network and feel safe right? Well I had made the unfortunate mistake of not taking advantage of that opportunity; instead I ended up becoming quite the bitter person for my first year. I had no idea as to how that happened, but it just did. I even joined a Christian fellowship (UTMCCF) and still, it didn’t work. I soon learned the lesson the hard way and therefore ended up choosing to commit only to AIESEC. (mention of previous article)

Tales of Harmonia is a choir that I started last school year in April when I had concluded my choral experience with the Hart House Chorus. I founded it because I felt a pit of emptiness in my stomach at the end of performing Mozart’s Mass with the Hart House Orchestra and all the wonderful classical, folk, and less-than-contemporary music. It wasn’t that I detested that style of music, but rather, I felt it needed more variety. When I initially joined the Hart House Chorus, I had the expectation from the name, that the music would be quite general, but soon found myself singing many songs I had already sung back in high school and feeling this dread of deadness. As much as I enjoyed songs celebrating the coming spring, a trip to the Hart House Farm, and another trip to the University of Western Ontario to perform at the Intervarsity Choral Festival, I found myself wanting to showcase music in all its splendour, majesty, glory, grandeur and beauty.

Therefore, I ended up establishing Tales of Harmonia, the first ever all-inclusive choir on campus, where you’d find home to both sacred and secular, a cappella and accompanied, Occidental and Oriental music, amongst many others. And ever since its inception way back in April, it has been an upward climb that would eventually lead us from rehearsing at the Quiet Room of the Multifaith Centre (see the irony there?) to holding our world premiere and year end concert with much success at the Knox College Chapel.

The choir has been a huge blessing in my life for I’ve once again, met some of the most amazing people ever, people with an equal passion for music and its many potentials, learned much about my leadership, and gained/improved on skills that I never thought I had and could obtain so directly.